Thursday, January 21, 2010

TYPING can be dangerous

A plate of warmed-up re-hash today. I wrote the original in early 2007.

Why don't writers and entertainers drop the insidious habit of stereotyping? There's a lot of nonsense thrown around in the media, and on the internet. Some people, myself included, have learned this from experience, and make allowance for it, becoming cynical in the process. Stereotyping on the basis of nationality, age, gender, class, ethnicity, and profession abounds. Hardly any American, Irish, British, French, German etc. folk fit the stereotypical patterns attributed to them yet they are still regularly churned out in the name of journalism or entertainment. It's common in astrology, too, for those who haven't managed to escape from a Sun Sign mentality. A good example is the jokey list of "How many Librans, Leos, Virgos....etc. it takes to change a light bulb". Stereotyping par excellence! It's funny, as long as we keep in mind that it's a joke, not a fact.

In astrology proper, archetypes replace stereotypes. The existence of archetypes imprinted within the human psyche was first proposed by Carl Jung. Theres a list of traditional archetypes and characters who seem to portray them HERE.

There's a clear difference between archetypes and stereotypes, but they can sometimes be confused. Archetypes represent the original, perfect example of any given aspect of human experience - the recognisable pattern, the perfect template. A stereotype represents an opinion, often an over-simplification or caricature emphasising particular factors which support whatever prejudice the writer or speaker upholds.

Stereotyping provides a quick and easy thumbnail sketch of a type of person or situation - it's journalistic shorthand, which may contain a tiny grain of truth but almost always a lot of misconceptions and generalities. It saves the writer many extra words and much effort. In the process, stereotyping encourages readers and listeners to form opinions which can eventually develop into prejudice, and lead to discrimination. Stereotyping can therefore be dangerous, unless we remain aware of exactly what is going on.

Imagine a family tree with archetype at the top , icons through the ages on the next branches, spawning beneath them a variety of stereotypes, these in turn giving birth to prejudice & bigotry, the terrible twins.

I noticed that at Yahoo Answers an enquirer was offered the opinion that, in a nutshell, an example of an archetype is Marilyn Monroe, the stereotype would be the dumb blonde. I understand what was meant, but it's not quite accurate, in my view. Marilyn Monroe is not the archetype, she is the icon of an archetype recognisable in the 20th century. Earlier icons would be Cleopatra or Helen of Troy. The nearest classic archetype of these women, I guess, is The Temptress. The dumb blonde, as a stereotype, was fuelled by an act Marilyn Monroe liked to put on for the cameras. This stereotype has now fuelled a whole set of "blonde jokes", relatively harmless - unless you happen to be a blonde beauty with a Ph.D in nuclear physics.


Wisewebwoman said...

What a great post, T!
I just hate stereotyping and am shocked when I receive email 'jokes' or verbal slights promulgating it.
One example is my brilliant naturally blonde daughter who is a professor of stats and has a degree in engineering too. You can imagine how often she grits her teeth and when she was a student, one professor had the gall to ask what she was doing in his physics class to the laughter of all the male students.
She reported him.
When I hear a castigation of another based on his race or orientation (ie all gay men are 'flamboyant pansies') I ask the person do they know any? Why would they say such a thing not knowing any gay male personally except from media misrepresentation.
Anyway I do go on but this is one of my 'buttons'.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ One of my buttons too!
A lot of it goes on under the radar too, a wee bit too subtle for most to notice. That kind is even more insidious than the up-front jokes, which are at least easily identifiable.