Tag Archives: writing/reading

Stereotypes in Writing and Reading: Love them or Not?

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I like to think that I am a non-racist individual that dislikes prejudice in any form, and then I write.  When I write, in developing my characters I can’t help but depend on stereotypes.  Do you think they are derogatory? I like to think that I do so without the element of Hate, and that makes it okay.  Like the book and the movie “The Help”The help by  Kathryn Stockett, I used the stereotype of the Southern maid, a big boisterous buxom black woman, who smelled of baby powder, sweat and peppermint.  Hannah’s nanny, who accidentally and erroneously taught her why black people were black.  It was funny.

Like comedians:  We writers sometimes depend on these images to develop our characters into real and believable immediately recognizable images.  Moreover, I don’t believe that society dictates that to us in our everyday lives, as much as visual media demonstrates these images over and over again until they are fixed in our brains.  We, as writers are trying to place or fix a visual image in our reader’s mind relying on their own imagination.

You do know that if I said, “Gangsta dude,” you would immediately conjure an image a of black guy with his pants dropping down and his underwear showing, shooting hand gestures and wearing bling with his ball cap placed backwards on his head or a hoodie on.

Likewise if I said, “Flapper”, you might immediately conjure an image of a lady in the roaring twenties without further explanation.

Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out
Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out

Sometimes, I try to deliberately cause the reader NOT to get a stereotypical image in their mind, because I am trying to go in another direction.  This can be more challenging than writing the stereotype.  Do you depend on stereotypes or try to avoid them?

I made two lists of stereotypical images of Southern men and women.  Does your mind automatically distinguish the sometimes subtle differences or would they have to be explained? Do you get a visual image?

Southern Men:                                                                       Southern Women:

1)      Swamp man                                                              1) Redneck mama

2)      African-American                                               2) White trash/trailer trash

3)      Redneck                                                                     3) Hillbilly Queen

4)      Hillbilly                                                                   4) Southern Belle

5)      Mountain man/Mountaineer                            5) Steel magnolia

6)      Good ole boy                                                             6) Swamp Witch

7)      Southern gentleman                                             7) Proper Southern lady

8)      Southern guy                                                            8) Good ole girl

9)      Black Sambo                                                              9) African Princess

10)   Flaming Fag (like Chablis, in                       10) Somebody’s Child

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)         11) Church lady

11)   Dirt farmer                                                               12) Holy roller/Biblethumper

12)   City boy                                                                     13) Island girl

13)   Cracker Jack

When you write or read to you feel facilitated by stereotypes or hampered by them?

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