Why Media Literacy Matters – Stereotypes

Information comes from all over the world through powerful images.

Photography, video and film can perpetuate stereotypes.

Stereotypes can manipulate people’s thoughts and feelings, cause rage, unreason and even persecution (Shaheen, 2009)

Misrepresentations of immigrants and certain minority groups in the media play a significant role in shaping the public attitudes and opin­ions of people (Martens, 2010), which further perpetuate the stereotypes in society.

Immigrants and certain minority groups are often viewed as dangerous, a nuisance or as individuals in need of the country’s assistance. These stereotypes have been accepted by society as the norm.

These messages perpetuate the idea of “us versus them”.

These negative stereotypes presented by the media portray people of other races and cultures as “other” and establish them as inferior.

The media consistently portray racial minorities in stereotypical roles and although not all stereotypes are negative, even benign ones could encourage prejudice and benevolent feelings that are just as problematic (Ramasubramanian and Oliver, 2007).

Therefore, people need to be aware of how the media manipulates their beliefs.

People need to learn how to analyze media messages so that they are not misled by false information.

Media literacy education can help minimize the harm.

Media literacy teaches people the critical thinking skills that are necessary for understanding the complex messages presented by the media.

Researchers have concluded that if people practice and put in a conscious effort to negate stereotypical associations, they could reduce prejudice (Ramasubramanian and Oliver, 2007).

Media literacy training can help people see how news media often serve to rationalize existing social norms and expectations (Ramasubramanian, 2007).

People will then be more aware of how the media shapes social reality and will be less likely influenced by negative stereotypes.

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References

Martens, H. (2010).Evaluating Media Literacy Education: Concepts, Theories and Future Directions. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 2(1), 1-22.

Ramasubramanian, S. (2007). Media-Based Strategies to Reduce Racial Stereotypes Activated by News Stories. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(2), 249-264.

Ramasubramanian, S. and Oliver, M.B. (2007). Activating and Suppressing Hostile and Benevolent Racism: Evidence for Comparative Media Stereotyping. Media Psychology, 9, 623-646.

Shaheen, J. (2009). Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press. Preface and Introduction. 

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