Racism Within Film and TV

Within art, particularly film and TV shows present ethical dilemmas where they illustrate people in that they use extreme stereotypes or prejudices. “For instance entertainment content can reinforce the status quo by constantly depicting certain social groups in an unflattering and unrepresentative way, presenting a distorted picture of reality.” (Patterson/Wilkins, 258) Some of the most attacked groups I have encountered are Muslims, Evangelicals, African American and Asians. I recall that even in some cartoons that were meant for children, such as Bugs Bunny, were very racist and insulting to particular groups.



Walter Lippmann, the author of Public Opinion, states how we all fall prey to “defining first and seeing second”. By showing all of these stereotypes in the entertainment industry, we are reinforcing these awful perceptions that are exaggerated and insulting. The audience doesn’t question or challenge these assumptions made about these people.

This situation could be viewed in the perspective of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism; Mill’s philosophy is to do what benefits the largest number of people, which is clearly not being done. The film and TV industry are harming both the people they are negatively depicting and the audience members who can be molded by these perceptions that they are being presented with. Neither of these will help to benefit the community if anything, it will harm the people. This could cause people to become racist by accident or even on purpose. This would just cause a cycle of hate and insulting stereotypes.

Two ethical news values that should be applied to this situation are accuracy and diversity. Accuracy should be employed because although all stereotypes have some truth behind them, they are playing up most of the attributes that are untrue and offensive. The creators of these movies and cartoons need to do more research to be fully accurate. Diversity is also problem within these programs because they incorporate diversity but in an offensive way. They need to improve by adding diversity by instead doing it in a correct, ethical manner.

Mind you, not all films and TV shows are this way. There are many that show diversity in a positive light and don’t portray the characters in a degrading manner. Good examples of this is Parks and Recreation, Glee, PBS children’s show Maya and Miguel, and New Girl.

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