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Interracial Relationships

Portrayal of Black/White Relationships in Television and Movies

Hannah Schleis

on 6 July 2013

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Transcript of Interracial Relationships

Interracial Relationships
Interracial Relationships on the Rise
Acceptance on the Rise
83% of all Americans say it is “all right for blacks and whites to date each other.” (Wang)
The Media is Lagging
Interracial couples are still misrepresented
How media affects us
Hope for the Future
Misconception of Reality
Stuart Hall Media Interpretation Model
Gerbner and Gross Cultivation Theory
Reception Theory
The way we communicate with one another, culturally and socially, influences how we view the world, and those in it, along with the meaning we apply to it.
Audience interprets media messages based on cultural background and past experiences.
Television has the power to influence the viewer's perception of reality.
The dominance of a power structure gives precedence to the images and information being revealed to help give relevance to ‘preferred meanings’ (Hall).
In "Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse," Jhally argues that "there is no such thing as 'society.'" He proposes that media is ruled by advertisement and advertisement "do more than mirror our dream life, they help to create it (Jhally)."
"...when surface-level differences are wiped away, what remains are often surprisingly similar and complementary visions of life and society, consistent ideologies, and stable accounts of the "facts" of life (Gerbner)."
8.4% of all marriages in the US are interracial
Focus: Portrayal of Black/White Relationships in the Television and Film
Of the interracial marriages, 12% are between black and white americans
Black males marry outside of their race more frequently
Compared to just about 9% of black female newlyweds.
In 2010, nearly 25% of black male newlyweds married outside their race.
14.6% of new marriages are interracial
*more than double the number of interracial marriages in 1980
**These numbers do not include non-married interracial couples**
In 2005, 48% of all Americans reported dating someone of a different race and 60% of younger Americans, ages 18-29, have done so (Jones).
"How would you react if a member of your family were going to marry someone of a different race?"
64% of white Americans would be "fine with it"
80% of black Americans say the same
Over a 36 year period, the top 15 films of each year were examined.
Only 11 white women were shown in a relationship with a man of color.
34 women of color were shown in a relationship with a white man.
Interracial relationships usually occur in violent films or scenes.
Of the 540 films studied, only 45 interracial couples appeared on screen.
*That means only 8% of the movies displayed interracial couples (Ramoutar).
*9 of these couples were unmarried, 1 was engaged.
*Only 4 of these couples were married
Media Creates False Standards
White Women are flawed or fragile
Black Women are wild and must be tamed
Often depicted as victims of abuse, drug addicts, sexually immoral or vulnerable and naïve.

There is obviously something socially, morally or personally wrong with them.

Black men must control or fix white women.

Black women are depicted as “lucky” to have landed a white man.

Women of color are shown to be violent and aggressive and can't be trusted.
Are usually skilled in deviant or violent acts such as martial arts, theft and deception.
*Light-skinned is good, dark-skinned is bad
"Dark-skinned women are still portrayed as the femme fatale who will bring about harm to the good, white male character."
"Like the Black Widow spider, she is shown as being fatal to her lover."
Shown to be "very masculine but sexualized"
"women of color should be treated with caution"
"Blackness" Matters
Light-skinned women are "commonly portrayed as being ambassadors of good."
"ethnic enough to be desirable yet white enough to be familiar to audiences"
"The more Anglican looking the female, the more positive or prominent her character is portrayed."
White Men are the bosses and the heroes
Black Men are the model minority
"Being hurt or killed is a “normalized” portrayal of a possible outcome of an
interracial relationship in film."
Continued exposure to this theme gives the audience the notion that "interracial relationships result in pain, conflict or possibly death."
Over 70% of the interracial relationships in the studied films appeared in action or drama movies which accounts for the danger and violence
Or interracial couples are used in comedy.
Interracial relationships are not serious and can be laughed at.
"Comedy is the third most popular genre accounting for 8% of the settings for interracial relationships in film (Ramoutar)."
African-American men are almost always depicted as "a well-educated, well-dressed, and articulate black man" if in a relationship with a white woman.
After the civil rights movement, "Hollywood made way for black model minority men who were embraced in the mainstream."
"These men are portrayed as perfect gentlemen who never exhibit any threatening sexual behavior."
"In every film in which a white man appears, he is a leading character and is critical to the positive outcome of the film."
"White men also serve in an important role to inspire and motivate the people around them."
Any woman's success depends on a white man's direction.
Ignorance Still Exists
Leads to Damaged Reputations
Stereotypes and judgments are made on false information.

Harsh portrayals of interracial couples and the people in them create negative interpretations from the audience.

The sheer lack of interracial relationships in movies and television causes audience to believe it is taboo or not widely accepted.

Affects of Misrepresentation
Slowly but surely, progress is being made.
Despite negative feedback, General Mills will not pull the ad explaining,
"At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all."
...but the majority agrees that race shouldn't matter.
Unfortunately, racism has not yet been completely eradicated, there is still a small population of those who believe interracial relationships are wrong...
Negative Responses to Cheerios Ad
Due to the number of offensive and racist comments posted in response to the ad, Cheerios had to disable the comment section (Strump).
ABC news stated that "some of the comments made reference to Nazis, “troglodytes” and “racial genocide (Kim).”
Even though 43,486 of the 3.4 million viewers have "liked" the ad (while only 2,113 "dislike" it) there has been an outpouring of negative and hurtful comments as well.
Positive Responses to the Negativity
The actor who played the father in the ad was disgusted with the racist remarks the ad received,
"We have a president who is the product of a mixed relationship, and we still can't get past the racial element (Causey)."
Ex-chairman of the advertising agency, Deutsch Inc, Donny Deutsch weighed in on the importance of advertisement,
"Great advertising holds up a mirror to who we are and where we’re going. We see it in TV, we see it in movies, and advertising is still very late to the game. My challenge to advertisers out there – get with where the country is going (Strump).”
"More like single parent in the making. Black dad will dip out soon."
"Want to vomit"
"This is disgusting. I’m never eating Cheerios again! Good day sir!!!"
*Images courtesy of Google if not otherwise noted.
When discussing interracial relationships and society’s perception of them, we must ask where are we receiving our information. Is it from first hand experiences with the neighborhood black and white couple, or is it from a secondary source? More often then not, it is from a secondary source (media for the most part). What this does is create incomplete information, which is distorted and shaped by racial stereotypes.
White-Washed Celebrities
In media, features associated with whiteness are portrayed predominantly to be “beautiful”. This phenomenon is described in Beverly Tatum's "Defining Racism" article. Two white students are discussing Cleopatra and one of the boys mentions that she is black. The other boy replies by saying,
“That can’t be true. Cleopatra was beautiful (Tatum)."
As stated in the article "See Baby Discriminate," children recognize race and form assumptions based on those racial identifications as early as 6 years of age. Without proper dialogue between the child and the parents about acceptance, kids are left to their own devices to learn about and understand race (Bronson). Unfortunately, media, and all of the misrepresentations it portrays, is a main influence on American youth. This combination of non-communication between families, and exposure to false depictions on the ever-present TV screen, can lead to intolerance toward other races and interracial relationships.
Recent law school graduate Meagan Hatcher-Mays, the daughter of a black mother and a white father, believes the Cheerios commercial represents progress,
"I think this commercial is a really big step for interracial families.The commercial represents that we exist (Strump)."
Media dictates what Americans are able to introduce into our reality and include in our common perception of society.
Hannah Schleis, Kim Westlund, Dylan Pecchenino, Kas Totura

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