Stereotypes: Laying Dormant Until Unleashed
Michael G. Mullen Jr. (Professor Bjorn Ingvoldstad), Department of Communications, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Are you someone who knows that stereotypes are wrong and yet see them take place within society, despite being taught that they are wrong? Are those stereotypes lying dormant until properly motivated? The sad truth and belief of this study is that stereotypes are in fact alive and festering in the hearts of individuals. The implications of such a belief is that while high ranking officials and general opinion says stereotypes have a negative influence, they still exist, and surface when motivated enough. There are many examples of this in action but I have chosen to study primarily film, more specifically television, and even more specifically the television show LOST. Within LOST is a complicated story-telling technique heavily relying on flash-backs and flash-forwards to fill in the gaps of missing information for the viewer. This is crucial to the show’s mysterious build of character development. As the shows unfold, however, certain culture’s representative characters are targeted. The information given leads the viewer to assume about the specific characters, often bringing out assumptions about that characters race, culture, religion, and political association. Since stereotypes are often created and thrive within people who have no base knowledge of the targeted individual’s culture, they are left to draw their own conclusions, often including stereotypical views when given no other information to draw better conclusions. This observational study would be done, selecting keys episodes from the first two seasons of LOST, watching them while taking detailed notes, and cross referencing forum posts on the LOST boards as well as fan sites and written articles to gather general reactions to missing informational gaps leading to stereotypical assumptions. The targeted characters of study will be Jin and Sun (Asian representatives), Sayid (Middle-Eastern representative), Michael and Rose (African representatives), and James/Sawyer (southern Caucasian representative). The significance of this project would not only bring to light that stereotypes still exist strongly in people who otherwise may not have exhibited them, but to also show how these types of damaging generalizations are used within television (for good or bad). If we gain a better understanding of the root of stereotypes, it would provide information critical in the absolute reduction and destruction of their negative influence which plagues not just our country but the world.