Race, Gender and the Media

Misrepresentation is Worse than No Representation

In order to talk about gender representation in the media, you first have to understand what their relationship is and the difference between accurate representation and that which can be harmful.

In class, we watched videos where African-American’s were shown as characters on the nightly news. Videos like “Bed Intruder” -which became a popular comedy video- portray African-Americans in a way that garners little respect or concern from viewers of the newscast. The video originally showed a woman and her brother testifying about an intruder who broke into their apartment.

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Instead of showing a family scared from a horrific break in, they showed a man who aligned with the “black stereotype”. African-Americans are almost always shown as perpetrators, victims or black stereotype like single poor mother rather than a police officer or someone of authority. While this is representation technically as it is African-Americans on the news, it doesn’t show any accurate or respectful representation at all of that community. Representation like that only leads to the continuation of harmful stereotypes.

While in class watching this video, it struck me how many people were still amused by this video, even with knowing the whole story. People laughed out loud, mimicked the man, and were still amused by the “joke”. In a class where we had just discussed the importance of accurate media representation and looked into the effects of misrepresentation, it was shocking to see my classmates still not really care. Yes, we all laughed the first time we saw the video years ago but for people who are studying the impact of videos like this to still find it comical was very disheartening.

It’s easy to sit around and say “yeah, minorities are misrepresented and someone should do something about it” and its a completely different thing to turn that judgement onto yourself and allow you to see your own prejudices. And its even more difficult to actively work at changing your preconceptions in order to go out and make a difference in your line of work. To all the journalism students in my class who still find that video funny, I hope that you will realize the issue with those types or portrayals and work to change them once in the industry.

Yours Politely, Natalie



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