After our class last week, I had my beliefs about Asian (mis)representation and stereotyping in the media largely upheld. However, when I began to consider that class in the context of some of our other discussions, a disturbing trend became clear to me for the first time. Although we've spent the last few weeks talking about women of different ethnicities--all with rich cultural histories--there seems to be some common, demeaning ground in how they're all portrayed in the mainstream media. I look back to our discussions and readings for black women, Latin women, and Asian women, and they all seem to feature at their core a kind of binary between a hypersexual/devious representation and a more submissive one, with no intermediate for any group. Indeed, though we have yet to have a discussion on the topic yet, the same binary seems to exist for representations of Muslim women based on our weekly readings, as the popular tropes seem to be that of the "exotic belly dancer" or the "voiceless burqa wearer."
Taking any group of people and portraying them in such a binary is reductive and patently ridiculous and harmful, but what does it say about our society that we can take such a rich tapestry and distort every bit of it in the same way? What factors lead to this disappointing distortion? I've been making jokes to those around me that all of the reading and studying I'm doing for this class is showing me that "everything is messed up, has been for a long time, and I don't see how anything is going to get much better." When I said that a month ago, it was accompanied by a chuckle, but the deeper we go into everything, I'm concerned that I might have been exactly right. However, this class's readings show that a lot of good work is being done, though, and I suppose that is important--I just wish they'd reach a broader audience rather than, say, Sex and the City 2 or something in that vein. That leads me to an intriguing question: can serious scholarly work be successfully woven into popular entertainment? What are the stakes if that cannot be managed?