Media and multiculturalism By Matt Miller


Culture has always been an important factor in any societies discussion. Especially in todays modern, connected world culture plays a more important role than ever. In the discussion of culture, media plays a crucial role. The media shapes the discussion and helps choose what parts of culture to focus on. One facet of the current cultural discussion in both the United States and the United Kingdom is the idea of multiculturalism. At its core, multiculturalism is the concept of many different people coming together from different ethnicities, backgrounds, religions, values and creeds to form a society in which they can all live. No society is perfect at this and both the United States and United Kingdom struggle at including everyone properly, and the media is confused of what to do with multiculturalism as well. A great reflection of this is the movies and news a nation puts out. American often calls itself “the mixing pot of the world,” yet its films and much of its media do not follow suit. Britain is a little different, and a few more popular films have strong multicultural themes.

American movies are often full of action, overly dramatic scenes and violence. However, for an American, they often portray woman and ethnic minorities poorly. In America, women are often shown as only being there as a romantic conquest of a more important male character. In addition, there are very few instances where a heroin is shown without a love interest. In the vast majority of American films, a male love figure is a serious part of the plot, more so than in their male counterparts. According to a study by Dr. Rick Nauert, many stereotypes of women still exist in American cinematography. Interestingly enough, Dr. Nauert uses action movies as a the forum for presenting the female role in film. He bases much of his blog off of work done by a woman named Katy Gilpatric. Gilpatric studied the role woman play in violent action movies and found that it really didn’t differ from other films. According to the blog Dr. Nauert wrote, “Over 58 percent of violent female characters were portrayed in a submissive role to the male hero in the film, and 42 percent were romantically involved with him. The average violent female character was young, white, highly educated and unmarried.” There are definitely advances, however, even in 2015, woman have not prevailed in American cinematography.

However, in the early 21st century, like 10 years ago or so, the English film “Bend it like Beckham” portrayed a young Hindu-English woman as its protagonist. Though the main female character does have a love interest, it doesn’t work out in the end due to her background. However, the main character spends the entire movie fighting against the traditional role the rest of her family wants her to fill by attempting to obtain her own persona goal of playing soccer. Most the conflict in the story actually comes from her family and friends, most who do not want or believe she can succeed in playing soccer. So to recap, and English film portrayed a young women pushing against her families desires for her to find a traditional, domestic role in order for her own personal goals to play soccer.

American and British Cinema already give a start difference in presenting female character. British heroines will sometimes fight against the norm in order to achieve personal goals, even if it means going against the grind in terms of family and culture. Interestingly, finding information on woman in American movies was easy, there are many studies done and blogs written discussing their roles. It wasn’t hard to find a Ph.D’s opinion on the subject. Dr. Naurets blog on Pyschcentral came up immediately. However, finding information on woman role in British film was a lot harder, and much of it revolved around the production side of film rather than the acting side. Most of the articles talked about woman’s roles in making movies. This might be why British films appear more progressive than Americans ones. However, American films have a way to go, especially in the sense of having female hero’s who aren’t overly concerned with their love lives. This mistreatment of woman definitely extents to minorities as well.

While a young Hindu woman can overcome traditional barriers in English films, minorities in America are typically criminals or sidekicks. Even in classic films like “Back to the future,” which depicts a scene with Arabic hitman who speak in ridiculous accents and were general idiots. Other more modern films depict Muslims in other countries as savages. Furthermore, especially in television, diversity is often added as a sidekick.

In the British film “Bend it like Beckham,” race isn’t perfect either. Hindu culture is portrayed as a obstacle to the protagonists dream and her dream is to become more westernized, but it does not portray Hindu culture as a issue but more of the division felt between two people in a multicultural society. Unlike American films which will portray other races as savage or uncultured stereotypes, the English film showed a confused and somewhat scared Hindu culture trying to figure out how it’s values have changed in a new environment.

Americans media is called many things, and not many of them are good. Whether or not the criticism is deserved or not is one thing, but American movies fall far behind British cinema in terms of portraying woman and minorities. To compare the two cultures portrayals, a study on American action movies was used and comported to a British film which exemplified a young minority woman for fighting for her dreams against the wishes of her family. These two films cultures give a lot away about the though behind what kind of analysis goes into creating them and what discussion is happening in the media about multiculturalism. While Britain shows a young woman caught between two cultures, America is showing woman as boy-crazed and minorities as unnecessary side characters and criminals.

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