How stereotypes affect people

Assumptions, we all make them. They help us. Yes, they do. But what happens when you assume someone’s opinions, their sexual orientation, their ability to do something, their financial status, and even their morals? Stereotypes are overgeneralized ideas of what a certain group of individuals should have in common. By stereotyping, we “assume” what a person of a certain group should or should not have as their characteristics.

There have been multiple studies that show how a stereotype can change a person’s behavior, their response to a situation, and even self-image. Stereotypes have undesirable effects on our personality development and the types of activities we do, as well as the way we live and the careers we choose.

There was a study done by Katz and Braly (1933) on Racial Stereotyping. They selected a group of people and gave them a list of characteristics that the group had to assign to a particular type of individual(s), who were differentiated based on their race. The study showed that most of the traits that indicated active lifestyle, hardworking and ambitious behaviors were assigned to white Americans. The characters that implied laziness and unprogressive behaviors were assigned to the individuals who were of African American race. In a related study, when individuals facing performance threat were given a test, it was shown that African American participants performed less well than their White American counterparts. According to Steele, stereotype threat generates “spotlight anxiety” (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p. 809), which causes emotional distress, “vigilant worry,” and “attributional ambiguity,” which can then lead to an underwhelming performance under stress situations.

In a similar study, two groups of women were selected. One group was then reminded of their Asian descent, and another was reminded of them being female, and the one reminded of their descent performed way better than the other one. The reason that came up the most for the result was stereotypical bias.

Stereotypes not only try to strip people of their individuality but also try to mold them into someone they are not. This type of bias, when applied to children, can affect their self-expression, academic success, body image, emotional health, etc. Kids learn from the people that surround them. Forcing young boys to be emotionally unavailable and young girls to be caregivers is something that when they take in their adult life causes a lot of distress not only on an individual level but also massively on a societal level. If they are taught to behave like a stereotype, they can sometimes grow up to not accept other people who do not act in the same way that they do. These things are also a big reason for the hate crimes that a specific group experiences due to stereotypical bias, whether due to their race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc.

Media also has a big role in feeding into these stereotypes that lead us to believe that this is the way of life. However, offering education free of stereotypes does not mean taking away all “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys,” such as dolls or fire trucks. Rather, it means actively encouraging children to make choices usually associated with the other gender. Children should be taught that someone’s way of talking does not describe their sexual orientation. Someone’s sexual orientation or race does not define their ideologies. Everyone deserves a chance to be someone that they want to be without fear of being judged or experiencing hate for who they are, especially when they can’t change it.

Written by – Chaarvi Dwivedi

Impact of Films on Society

What image do we exactly have about a hero?

That he’s the most successful man, never fails in any mission, got all the superpowers to fight all the super-strong villains and ultimately wins the heroine’s heart and the battle. All this seems so natural for us but to be honest, all these are ‘Portrayed’ natural for us. How can one man fight ten goons at a time, how can he convince the heroine to fall in love with him even if she’s not interested, no matter how much he pressurized her. He needs to have all the good qualities, nothing bad like he’s some kind of a God. He needs to be tall, handsome, fair and masculine only then he can perfectly fit into the role of a hero. This isn’t only limited to the heroes but the heroines too have certain categories to fulfill. For many eras, actresses are used as props in films where all they have to do is become the hero’s love interest and the reason to fight for. Yes, there are many movies too where the female characters are as important as the hero’s but when her role becomes the main focus the popular actors refuse to act beside them. She needs to be portrayed as a helpless and weak woman but beautiful, if not, then how the hero will fall for her? Especially in Indian movies, there are times when you will watch the female protagonists worshipping their husbands like God, no matter how badly she has been treated. What makes her ‘Sanskaari’ is when she wears traditional clothes, when she speaks less in front of her in-laws. All these serve in influencing the stereotypical thoughts of society and promote issues like gender biases, rape, abusing females, colour discrimination, body shaming and many more. Often in the movies, the male protagonist is shown loitering around the girl despite her strict denial, he gets attracted to her if she wears short clothes which gives wrong signals to the youth that girls dress for men. Even if she says, ‘No’ the actor will keep lagging by performing baseless acts and in the end, he succeeds in winning her heart showing it’s that easy to get a ‘Yes.’ The lyrics of certain songs are so immoral that it describes the woman as a sex symbol. Not only the plot but also the music of films are becoming unjustified. Movies highly influence the society as a means of entertainment but it also leaves a great impact on the audience and manipulates their way of thinking. If we talk about teenagers they are the fastest ones in noticing the actors’ actions, dressing sense, attitude and trying to imitate that in real life. There are certain films which depict violence, aggression, flaunting upper-class standards which many of them try to adopt going out of their comfort zone, they try to imitate the film’s characters in real life endorsing their good as well as bad qualities which takes them beyond being normal.

Our responsibilities

Where we blame the films for the portrayal of inappropriate things it’s also our responsibility to understand the fine line between the virtual and the real world. Whatever the film shows it’s just for entertainment. However, it’s true that the film industry must follow certain guidelines by regulating the content of the films with respect to the different age groups of audience watching those fims. We should know whatever shown in the movies is for entertainment purposes and we can’t enact that in actual life which might affect us personally and the people around us. The romantic, seemed to be real stories are lovely to fantasize but it also kind of distracts us from the practical world making us unrealistic and escapist. When a hero wins hearts by playing versatile characters, girls tend to fall for him, embracing his charm and giving him the tag of their ‘Prince-charming.’ Sometimes the obsession becomes so extreme that some people start worshipping him which has a term in psychological science called the ‘Celebrity Worship Syndrome’ (CWS). The person becomes extremely addicted to the celebrity that he or she gets involved with their life so much that they begin claiming the actor to be the love of their life leading to serious mental illness like depression or anxiety. The truth is, the things over which we fantasize about the actor in the film are all fictional. A film called Guddi by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, released in the year 1971 was picturized on this issue.

Let’s accept the fact that generation is changing and so are the film scripts that the audience is more concerned about the plot rather than the actors no matter how they look or what they wear. Films are trying to be realistic, actors are ready to play grey-shaded characters instead of being flawless, and it’s ok to lose a battle at the end, the hero need not be a handsome, dashing, well-dressed man but a simple one. There are movies like ‘Chhoti Si Baat,’ ‘Saath Saath,’ and ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ where the heroes are not a hardcore, fighter but a simple, leaned figure boy. Love stories might not have a happy, united ending where the protagonist may lose the love of his life but can sensibly embrace the fact about leading a better life without someone. Films must show what’s believable as well as legitimate and the audience too should keep in mind the difference between the theatrical and real-world, learning and getting motivated by the positive aspects of the film. Our society can thrive if they start changing the taboos by accepting the change with open arms that the coming-of-age films are trying to bring with their distinguished and revolutionary plots.