Stereotypes in Screenplay

Within the world of entertainment, we have music, dance, theater, games, so on and so forth. Along with them, we can sometimes see some… questionable depictions. Throughout the year, we dived into various topics, but one that really stuck onto me was the idea of “single stories”. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie elaborated on this in her TED Talk,”The Dangers of a Single Story.” I wanted to focus my project on the ideas brought by Adichie and by the video series, “Every Single Word.” To do this, I chose to look at screenplay and how different stereotypes are being presented. Whether they be intentional or unintentional, screenplay seems to have a strong role in enforcing certain stereotypes. This is often seen in screenplay that depict “dark humor”, where the intention is to poke fun at certain groups of people. Below I have three screenplays where single stories can be found.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

This one is an old but gold movie! Well, kind of. In this movie, we are introduced to Chloe, a chihuahua who knows nothing but living a lavish life. Her owner is Viv, a wealthy white woman. Papi, the other chihuahua, is in love with Chloe and will go to great extreme to protect her. His owner is Viv’s landscaper… which is a Hispanic man named Sam. That brings me to my first stereotype found with the movie. Within popular culture, Hispanic men will often be represented as labor workers, doing jobs like picking, construction, and garden work.
I think a major stereotype, or single story, that was brought up in this movie was the fact that many automatically think that a Hispanic/Latinx individual does not speak English. Rachelle is Viv’s niece; she is also wealthy, quite spoiled, and is as irresponsible as it gets. In one part of the movie, Rachelle approaches Sam angrily, asking him to get his dog, Papi. However, Rachelle speaks to Sam with a mix of English and Spanish words, having difficulty communicating to him her frustration. Rachelle has assumed that Sam does not speak English, hence why she approached him in that manner.

The Office

Whoever doesn’t like The Office clearly hasn’t seen it, it’s the only logical reason. It’s hilarious context never fails it’s audience. This humor can sometimes contain some offensive stuff, though. However, with The Office it’s s bit different. The stereotypes that they may display are intentional. This is what we like to call “dark humor” which can be seen often in shows like South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad. So, when analyzing this, I questioned how this could be applied to my investigation for single stories. The thing is, although that’s the purpose of the screenplay, that stereotype is still being reinforced. There are several examples in this clip:
1. Associating Jewish people with money
2. Kevin’s use of “Jamaican” vocabulary and excessive use of marijuana
3. Pam, although it hurt her to say it, assuming that Asian people are bad drivers. 
4. And lastly, Michael talking to Kelly in an a poor Indian accent, asking her if she wanted to “try his cookie cookie”.

Call Me by Your Name

This one was a bit difficult to analyze. But I couldn’t help but to think that this movie puts gay men under a predatory light. We have a 24 year old graduate student, Oliver, and a 17 year old minor, Elio, engaging in a romantic and sexual relationship. So, I had brought this point up to a friend of mine who loves the movie. But they had claimed that its legal because kid name fits the age of consent. When I looked for the opinions of others on Twitter, there were a lot of people who had the same idea. However, as others stated, legal doesn’t mean ethical. In sum, this movie, depending on how one sees it, is enforcing the idea that gay men are predators. This projection makes these individuals look like they only go for minors and are pedophiles, which can be extremely harmful towards them.

I had a list of topics I wanted to do for this project. It sort of came down to what interested me the most. As I mentioned, what really stuck onto me this year was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TED Talk on single stories. I wanted to evaluate this in screenplay and found numerous examples. Many were either “dark humor”, stereotypical, or just down-right degrading. The “Every Single Word” video series also had a major influence. I wanted to incorporate the idea they had, which was to get clips of every time a POC would have a line in major movies, and use it to create my own version. To make it work, I had my friends help me think of movies where sterotypes, or single sotires, seem to pop up. We eventually cut them down and listed the major parts of a movie or episods where I could dive deeper in.

Initially, I had the idea to obtain clips for reference but I had a lot of trouble with that. So, I hope you had simply take my word for it that it actually happened! Other than that, the whole process went well. I did think too overboard on ideas on how to project this, though, I will admit that.

Throughout this process, I’ve learned that it’s actually kind of hard to distinguish stereotypes. In earlier movies, we can see them everywhere. However, today we don’t see whole lot as much as we used to. We only really see it in shows where the intention of depicting stereotypes is there. Other than that, we have some some progress in the world of screenplay.

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About Mari

Hi! My name is Maricela, but I usually go by Mari. I'm from Hood River, so not too far away from here! Currently a CCJ major :-). I'm excited for this class and to work with you all!