Stereotyping in Anthro and Movies

Sun Jan 23 18:31:04 UTC 2000

My objection was to the overly quick dismissal
of someone who was criticising a movie.

C. Berry clearly did not understand my posting.
Quote below, and other evidences that he
did not understand the explicit "if" I deliberately
put in there, and my statement that the author of the
original post deserved better consideration.

The only other thing I think I could have done was
to say explicitly that yes, I think there was some
human sacrifice (and that because of the difficulties of evidence
and biases, I take no position on it beyond that).

Look at the following:

>> Claiming that a particular fact is TRUE is in no sense by itself evidence
>> that a presentation about another is TRUE in any sense of balance
>> or realism.
>I'm not sure I follow your assertion, here.

I think the statement speaks for itself.
But let me spell it out one more step.
Saying that a people did (on some occasions) perform
human sacrifice is *not* by itself evidence that a presentation about
those people is TRUE in any sense of balance or realism.
Perfectly obvious point.

By the way, I am (I always have to point out in these discussions)
no politically correct person.  I hate political correctness,
and I am not trying to curry favor with anyone.  Just act as an
antidote when I think that may be helpful.

I object *also* to the stereotyped portrayal of Spaniards as villains
in the conquest, though there certainly were villains.
The problem is the stereotyping.  Notice that when
portrayed by north Europeans in such ways, the Spanish (or Hispanics)
are "others" too.  Awfully easy to do.  C. Berry correctly points to this.
Nor am I in favor of stereotyped criticism
of one's own background culture, for example those of European ancestry
dumping condemnation on northern Europeans who came to North America.

The point that movies for children exaggerate heros and villains
is no defense, in my view.  Of course they do.


THAT is the problem.
Movies for children can teach evils in that way,
by teaching that character and race or culture are the same thing.
By teaching that others are (yech!) primitive.
Or horrible.  Etc. Etc.

The "others" need not even be humans.  JAWS was dishonest,
and a disservice to humanity.  The Post Office advertising
stamps with insects "Get them before they get you" is a disservice
to humanity, by further isolating them from nature.
Cheap shots, in all cases, those stereotyped have no recourse.
The real damage is to the human receivers of such messages.

By definition of the word "stereotype", in normal use.
(Cultures can have interests in conflict, but that is quite another matter.)

I am a strong believer that the trivialized and commonplace
violence, racial antagonism, and other negatives

in movies and TV *DO* have a direct causal linkage to violence in real life.
Movies and TV are the only way many children learn about much of life.
And adults too, for that matter, more and more I fear.
Especially where it concerns other cultures, this is dangerous.

Our society, like many others, has singularly bad taste
in what it exposes its children to.
And what I am talking about is enormously more important
than what people sometimes spend all of their time on,
supposed "decency".  Violence and cultural antagonisms
are much more indecent than those other things.

So, therefore, I thought the quick dismissal of the person
suggesting a boycott of a movie was highly inappropriate
(even if that person may be, in the view of most of us,
wrong about facts, in wanting to believe that there was no
human sacrifice).

Based on the track record of movies in most cultures,
including at least recently especially ours that I know of,
though I suspect recently more everwhere in the globe,
I would bet,
as I stated, that there is some grounds to support the
critic of the movie, based merely on common sense
about the stereotyping typical of movies.
And therefore we should not dismiss the criticism so fast.

I was explicit that I had not seen the movie,
and also by putting "if" in at least two places,
for the ethical reason that I did not want to appear
to be claiming knowledge I did not have.

C. Berry's response accusing me of making assumptions
was both factually wrong and a cheap shot.
I did not make assumptions of fact about this particular movie,
and said so explicitly.
I only bet that it was not so very unlike other movies made in our culture,
in certain respects.

Lloyd Anderson
Ecological Linguistics

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