Sunday, April 12, 2009

Teresa's questions

1-Dyer distinguishes between social types and stereotypes, suggesting that social types are acceptable social classifications while stereotypes are classifications that go beyond normalcy and are designed to exclude. I disagree with this dichotomization and demonization of stereotypes. I think stereotypes are inevitable because we need to classify and categorize when acquiring new information. This categorization may lead to oversimplifications, especially about realities or subjects that are beyond our reach or different from us or our social environment. Although any oversimplification may become harmful, there are stereotypes that are bluntly negative (i.e., prejudices) and other that are not negative per se. Rather than demonizing stereotypes, which is demonizing how our mind or brain works, isn’t it a better approach to focus the attention on how to suppress or diminish prejudices?

2-On a related point, Dyer also asserts that the establishment of stereotype is one aspect of the habit of ruling groups. I think this is why minorities may stereotype themselves. But it is still a very simplistic, linear approach (from ruling groups to minority/subordinated groups). How do we explain the stereotypes that emerge from minority groups to the dominant class? Or stereotypes among minority groups? Or stereotypes among subgroups within the ruling group? BTW, what’s the ruling group in the U.S.? Whites? White males? White middle-upper class males? These social classifications demonstrate that social categorization is relative and depends on the identities that become salient in a certain context. Isn’t it better to think about stereotypes as oversimplifications that emerge from lack of knowledge, awareness and identification among groups that people consider themselves as member of?

3-Similarly, bell hooks’ argument lies on very fixed identities and a one-way relationship: white, blond males and their desire to break racial barriers and taboos by desiring the Other (i.e., a dark woman). What happens when people have conflicting identities? When they hold positions of domination in certain contexts but not in others? When class intersects with race? Isn’t she criticizing the essentialization of the Other by essentializing being white?

4- Using Dyer’s descriptions about gay stereotypes, do the recent Hollywood films about gays, Brokeback Mountain and Milk, challenge the existent stereotypes about gays? If so, in what ways? And what might be the consequences?

5- When Mulvey describes that in narrative cinema the woman inspires the hero, makes him act, but the woman by herself doesn’t matter at all made me think that this dynamic is indeed reinforcing pre-existing patterns and it is not only present in movies or fictional representations of reality. Isn’t it the same as this idea of the inspiring muse for artists, for example?

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