17 Jul


My Norwegian grandfather came to America with a large number of other immigrants in the late 1800s. Within America today there are still immigrants, many coming from different lands than in the 1800s and early 1900s. No doubt most of them come for a better financial future, the same reason for coming as those from my grandfather’s era.

Part of my job is to teach social skills to high school students within a high school of many cultures. The reason I decided to teach stereotyping as part of good social skills program is because I’ve heard too much of it at school this year. Violence can result from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, perhaps more so with teenagers who can be impulsive (sorry, I’m stereotyping here).

School is not the only place stereotyping takes place; let’s look at our books, what we watch on television and at the movies. To their credit, they have a smaller space to make information known, a shorter time slot to make a point. For example, mentally ill people in the movies are often a villain. All mentally ill people are not villains. Also, if the director wants to portray a character that is not the sharpest tack in the box, you may see a pretty blonde with wide eyes trying to understand a conversation. Yet, all blondes are not dumb. Another example seen in books, on television, or in the movies is if you want someone in the scene to be a tech whiz, you may describe a male with glasses and pens in his front pocket to portray this character. Not so often is the pretty blonde woman the tech whiz. As a matter of fact, on my way home from work last week I saw a van with the name, Geeks to the Rescue, embossed on the side. Perhaps Blondes to the Rescue would be their second choice for a name. However, I just saw an ad for Geeks to the Rescue and the model was a blonde dressed in khakis. Good for them for mixing things up.

 Sure, many don’t think too much about all this, don’t make a fuss about a blonde joke in front of a room full of people whether there is a blonde in the room or not. But it can be more serious than this. If I clump together a race or a country with certain traits, I could have a problem if I offend a person within that group, which is what I am trying to teach at school and what I am trying not to do when I write a story.


12 responses to “Stereotyping

  1. Janis

    July 17, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    Mary, great examples of classic stereotypes in books, movies, and television. Remember the Legally Blonde movies in which Reese Witherspoon proved the stereotype ultimately wrong? To make the movies comedic, the writers still “let” the audience in on the joke by giving Elle shallow-like interests that they could laugh at, while still rooting for her. Yet another spin creatively.

    I’m grateful that you’re providing this education to our young people. Maybe we can become a better world through our young.

  2. Mary Vine

    July 17, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Yeah, well even if they’re not listening I still talk, thinking something might sink in. Thanks, Janis.

  3. Meredith Conner

    July 17, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    I like the stories best (movies, books, etc. . ) where a stereotyped character has traits that break the mold – like Janis’s example with Legally Blonde or the quiet librarian that runs extreme marathons. Pigeon holing people can do so much damage, but it’s fun to smash that same mold in our own stories.

    • Mary Vine

      July 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      Yes, smashing is fun. Thanks Meredith.

  4. Clarissa Southwick

    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    I write books which take place in foreign countries, and this is something I struggle with on a regular basis. So often, I will get a comment back from a reader that says, “I don’t understand, I thought *whatever the stereotype is*.” In fiction, excessive explaining is frowned upon, so it’s a hard line to walk. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I always enjoy your posts.

    • Mary Vine

      July 17, 2011 at 5:10 PM

      Thanks for your kind words, Clarissa.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    July 17, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    This is an important topic. Thank you for blogging on it.

  6. Peggy Staggs

    July 18, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Stereotyping is an easy and quick way for ad executives to get their point across. It’s also lazy. I enjoy it when a writer takes the time to go outside the norm and give me a taste of something new. When they do (ad executives included) it is memorable. Think of the Vikings who use credit cards, the baby who is a day trader and so on. Fun ideas that work.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    July 18, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Thanks for the post Mary. When I did my blog last week I changed an element. The returing vet was a female instead of a male. We are still concerned about our “boys” fighting. Things have changed. We are working to be concerned about our “troops.” Stereotyping, it’s a work in progress.

  8. Carley Ash

    July 18, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    I’ve been a little concerned one of my characters is too much of a stereotype…so, I’m editing now. Thanks for the push.


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