Stereotyping from a sociological perspective is a social construction derived from a thought pertaining to a group of individuals with specific social characteristics, which can be linked to certain behavior types (Cox, Abramson, Devine & Hollon, 2012). Often there is no or very little accuracy linking the perceptions people or individuals may obtain regarding others for whom the stereotyping is alluded. When stereotyping is viewed from a psychological premise scientists argue that it emerges from prejudice and discrimination, basically. Therefore, in reality if stereotyping were to be associated with one’s social conditions there may be insufficient evidence for its existence except for pure personal rejection of the individuals or groups (Cuddy, 2009).
For example, stereotyping could take the form of gender discrimination whereby due a person’s gender he/she may be accused or perceived as belonging to a particular social class. At a specific time in the world’s history an aspect of gender stereotyping was practiced in the labor market whereby nurses were stereotyped as women, policemen as men; architects and pilots men. Never were women or men, respectively, allowed to cross those professional barriers due to occupational stereotyping. It is clear that there was no scientific evidence for this practice, but socio-psychological stereotyping that existed among employers and industrialist in the labor force at that time (McGarty, Yzerbyt & Spears, 2009)
This research focuses on stereotyping of villains acting in movies being responsible for various stereotypes that occur in the society overtime and currently. These include Muslims being linked to terrorism. It must be understood however, that, stereotyping is an outcome of mind and a product of society. What constitutes a stereotyping profile? They are merely attributes a person thinks defines a group. For example, boys who do not cut their hair are drug abusers; boys who wear ear-rings are gays and the list could be extended. Consequently, stereo typing content is composed of what people think of others. This is distinct from reasons for them thinking this way since often no logical ones exist. They can all be deemed emotional mis- representations (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2010).
More importantly, this research intends to also target businessmen posing as terrorist stereotypes. They are the ones who tend to travel across country and the world. Their profile fit the perceived image of someone who has a purpose, but beyond that apparent purpose is an underlying motive to attack a country for which prejudice feelings have emerged overtime. Besides, often they were not born in the country of the intended attack. Therefore, another stero type surfacing is that of foreigners. Precisely, for the purposes of this research key concepts being explored are stereotypes, villains, terrorists, movies, Muslims businessmen and foreigners.
When examining characters portrayed in the movie, True lies, one would find that, perhaps, the producers as well as script author deliberately wanted to portray villains as being Muslims. This story highlights Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger) as leading a conspicuous double life, functioning as covert missions for the U.S government within the counter-terrorism task force known as "The Omega Sector". Albert "Gib" Gibson (Arnold) and Faisal (Heslov) are his assistants. They operate under Spencer Trilby’s command. Incidentally, Harry's wife, Helen (Curtis), and his daughter, Dana (Dushku), perceive him to be an inefficient computer sales person working with Tektel Systems working hard promoting sales by engaging in much across county/ world travel. Tektel Systems is linked to Omega Sector which is the cover company, for the organization (True lies, 1994).
As the rising action continues Harry resorts to Omega Sector's resources in executing his revenge attack on his rival Simon. The weapons for mass destruction included the use of a GPS tracker and wireless microphone. Vigorously he goes after this used car sales man, who seduces Harry’s wife Helen. He acts as a spy. Harry’s agency then, kidnaps Helen. During an disguised conversation he realizes that his marriage lacked the adventure, which Simon was providing since he was too busy with other business commitments to offer his spouse. In response to this challenge Harry offers Helen the alternative either to go on a mission or be sent to jail (True lies, 1994).
Helen accepts the challenge to pursue the mission, which entailed acting as a prostitute to plant a bug on the telephone of a plant dealer. However, prior to the intervention harry insisted that she rehearses her role with him posing as the arms dealer dancing before him in a seclude part of a room. Before she could complete the performance Aziz’s men enter and take the both hostage to a terrorists resort somewhere in Florida Keys. The plot closes with Aziz’s men, Helen, Simon and Harry all taking on their specific roles in the terrorists attack as interpretations of villain stereotype characteristics are portrayed to audiences in this movie (True lies, 1994). .
With preference to the Lego movie the villain is played by the lord Business. This character is portrayed as evil and the hero by wizard Vitruvius. It is more recent in production than true lies, but similar in depicting the stereotyping phenomenon in our society. Lord Business is featured as an evil businessman company president of the Octan Corporation under the name President Business and the tyrant of Bricksburg. Tyrants often demonstrate terrorist activities. Similar to true lies this movie could influence corrupt business practices and development of the stereotyping of dishonest businessmen. Again as in true lies distinguishing the hearp from villain is difficult since it would appear that this was not the producer’s focus. Instead it was more aimed at entertainment ( Han, 2012).
Importantly, how could one justify from these events and character demonstrations that villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in society. Previously, it was highlighted that stereotyping is a process of the mind and a product of social construction. Precisely, then who are villains and how are they created to produce stereotyping profiles in society. In film a villain is known as an evil guy. Other expressions for villain in film industry are antagonist," "baddie", "bad guy", or "black hat. Most often the characters affect other roles in the plot negatively (Bryan, 2005).
In fiction, illustrating villains usually are expected to perform dual roles in the plot. It encompasses acting as adversary and foil to heroes in the play/movie. As adversary, the villain often functions as a contradiction to the hero. Heroes are required to struggle and overcome them in their heroic attempts. When adapting the foil role villains exemplify diametrically opposed characteristics in relation to the hero; thereby a distinct contrast is created distinguishing heroic features from villainous ones. The aim is identifying villainous elements hinting a wish-fulfillment sentiment communication to the audience (Bryan, 2005).
Ultimately, as viewers see these characters perform they tend to identify with them as strong heroes and imitate their behavior in the real world. Since this is the theatrical intention/outcome persons playing villain roles in movies are forced to offer the audience profound reasons for acting in the way they do, which is performing the wrong doing. Likewise an adversary must prove the worthiness of his/her role in the movie/play. Precisely, film producers and analysts contend that movies are evaluated based on the professional articulation of the villain (Bryan, 2005).
The film chosen for interpreting the hypothesis that villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in society is True lies, written and produced by James Cameron. Based on the main characters interaction as outlined in the plot earlier to an extent villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in society. Viewing audiences tend to imitate heroes. Harry, the businessman and secret service Palestrina terrorist agent at first appears to be the villain. However, according to film designing villains usually are expected to perform dual roles in the plot. It encompasses acting as adversary and foil to heroes in the play/movie. As adversary, the villain often functions as a contradiction to the hero. When adapting the foil role villains exemplify diametrically opposed characteristics in relation to the hero (True lies, 1994).
In True lies it is difficult to distinguish between the hero and villain even when evaluating based on the dual roles villains are asked to play. James Cameron at one point seems to let harry play hero to himself when he makes an offer to his wife Helen and in the midst of her rehearsal they both are taken hostage by his pursuer. As such, the supporting hero roles is not distinct neither the foil revealed clearly. However, this is a sociological research and not a film analysis. The sociological significance of the role Harry plays as terrorist and the supporting actors’ demonstration of various conspiracy traits is enough to convince the audience affinity to someone who has adapted villainous tendencies in the movie. Ultimately, as viewers see these characters perform they tend to identify with them as strong heroes/ villain and imitate their behavior in the real world. Truthfully, the viewing audience is not theatrical in distinguishing between villain and hero especially, young people look for some aspect of the movie which is appealing and identifies with it.
Theoretically, symbolic interactionism clarifies this stereotyping consciousness emerging from movie interactions/reactions. Herbert Blumer (1900-1987) clarifying George Mead’s (1863-1931) theoretical paradigms confirmed five major assumptions. They relate to how people such as movie audience in society formulate ideas from associating symbols. First people, must b understood from the perspective of being a social persons interacting with the environment. Second, humans must be perceived as a thinking person. Third, human beings do not interact with their environment directly, but in relation to a definition of their situation within the context of experiences emerging in the environment. Fourth, humans react to current occurrences in their situation and fifthly, humans are active participants in their environment (Herman-Kinney & Reynolds, 2003).
As such, in interpreting the ideology that villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in society is to align theories with behavior in providing evidence for phenomena occurring in society. Basically, humans do not express tendencies without first examining the relevance to their particular situation. Therefore, persons who adapt villainous stereotyping about others are doing so in relation to their particular situation. To say that movies have produced the stereotyping may be part of the truth, but is not entirely dependent on movie characters behavior.
Precisely, with reference to True lies, for example, there are no distinct lines of demarcation suggestive who acts the villain role and hero. Therefore, stereotyping emerging from this movie may be limited if the individual is reacting to current occurrences only in their situation as participants in their environment. Again in relation to this research it is not whether the stereotyping is true or not, but the significance of the underlying factors producing it. The preposition argues that it comes from viewing movies, but the alternative contention here is that this may be so only to a limited extent.
Stereotyping is an out working of the mind, but a product of society. To this extent the mind could fix characteristics based on viewing movies thereby forming opinions relating, foreigners, villains, terrorists, Muslims and businessmen. It is worth noting though, that, the movie True lies was made in 1992. The twin tower attack was produced in 2001. Immediately, investigations revealed that the attackers were foreigners, businessmen and Muslims. Ever since even at the highest level Muslims in this country are targeted as terrorists and intimidated. Essentially, a relationship among terrorists, foreigners; villains and businessmen is drawn for stereotyping purposes (Herman-Kinney & Reynolds, 2003).
A quick examination of the sociological characteristics classifying villain reveals that there is a thin line between villainous activities and heroic ones. In the pursuit of unfolding the sociology of villains Dr. Eric Susser, humanities professor at Arizona State University launched the hero Project highlighting the fact that, heroes undertake villainous activities to prove heroic skills. With direct reference to Adolph Hitler, the professor reiterated that ‘villainy is relative to the time and place in which a figure gains prominence’ (Anderson, 2012)
In summarizing this research report exploring the notion that villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in society it must be understood that from a sociological perspective villains are considered people who have committed serious crimes that have brought them into prominence. Sociologists are still research stereotype perceptions in determining classification outside of the theatrical discipline. It is clear however, that, the extent to which villain characterizations depicted in movies influence stereotyping in modern societies still needs to be further researched.
Labeling is a concept closely related to stereotyping. Therefore, in creating assumptions from studies on stereotyping sociologists are contemplating the role of labeling theories in the equation in determining the extent to which villains or "bad guys" in movies are responsible for stereotypes in the society. Are stereotypes just a label or it is a behavior towards a certain group of people based on one’s personal perception of them as they relate to a specific group or crime. While sociologists are contemplating the issue psychologist are interested in finding out the role of prejudice in both stereotyping and labeling in deciphering measures of assessing society’s real world paradigm.
Anderson, Kelly. Villains: The effect of context. Accessed on March, 24th 2014 from
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. Social Psychology (7th edition). New York:
Pearson. 2010. Print
Bryan Senn. Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931–1939.
Cox William, Abramson Lyn, Devine Patricia; Hollon, Steven. Stereotypes, Prejudice, and
Depression: The Integrated Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (5):
Cuddy, Amy. Stereotype content model across cultures: Towards universal
similarities and some differences. British Journal of Social Psychology
48 (1): 2009; 1–33.
Han, Angie. Phil Lord and Chris Miller Offer New Title, Plot Details for
Warner Bros. Lego Movie. 2012
Herman-Kinney Nancy; Reynolds, Larry. Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism. New York:
AltaMira. 2003. Print
McGarty Craig, Yzerbyt Vincent, Spears, Russel. Social, cultural and cognitive factors in
stereotype formation- Stereotypes as explanations: The formation of meaningful beliefs
about social groups. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2002. Print.
TRUE LIES (15) United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. 1994. Film