BiolaOlagbegiModernJewish Thought-Funny JewsProfessorHammerman Final Paper TV isbecoming increasingly diverse in terms of casting, with shows like: Janethe Virgin, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Scandal, How to Get Away WithMurder, and The Mindy Project.
However, stereotypessuch as “the loud and ‘ghetto’ Black woman,” or the “spicy Latina/Latin maid,”or the “quiet and submissive Asian woman/tiger mom,” are still perpetuatedon our TVs today, specifically in terms of the mother characters. The mediarepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities is highly relevant in thecontext of social integration of groups and minorities into mainstream society.In the literature on media representation of minorities, a common observationis their low visibility or marginalization as well as their negativegeneralizations and contextualizationSH1 .Theemergence of more diverse primetime television shows arrived in the 1980’s andthis time period was also seen as the boom of television shows. This resultedin shows like TheCosby ShowSH2 and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, two extremely successful TV showscentered around families of color. African-Americans were now cast in leadroles and the audience (both black and white) was now laughing with instead ofat these African-American characters.
Stereotypesof African-American women have played an important role throughout the historyof the United States, for they were used to justify economic and socialstructures such as slavery and segregation. Patricia Hill Collins, author of BlackFeminist ThoughSH3 t said: “Portraying African American women as stereotypical mammies,matriarchs, welfare recipients and hot mammas helps justify US black women’soppression”4. These famousstereotypes have been regularly used in both politics and popular culturealike. However, none of these stereotypes represent the truly complex nature ofthe individual. AsI mentioned before, television plays an important part in portraying thesestereotypesSH4 . African-American female characters in television are oftenone-dimensional and it distorts the reality of black women. Three mainstereotypes of African American women have continuously reoccurred in U.
S.history: the Mammy, the Jezebel and the Sapphire5.Accordingto Patricia A. Turner, “a truly fictional character”, the mammy traces back tothe post-Civil War period.
African American women were forced to work in theBig House: cook elaborate dinners, clean the entire premises and take care ofthe children. In reality these women were often teenagers, ripped away fromtheir families in order to take care of white families they had never met. Themyth that was created, however, depicted a totally different image of the mammycharacter. The mammy became an asexual grandmother type who dedicated her lifeto her white family. She became the symbol of maternal care and instinct.
Shewas depicted as overweight, even though her food supply was severely rationedby the white slave-owners. It may, therefore, be safe to argue that the myth ofthe mammy was created to remove all the “heinous dimensions of slavery” andsoothe the Southerners’ conscience5 . The most popular interpretation of the mammy in American culture is therole played by Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind. Although the role ashouse slave won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making herthe first African American actress ever to win an Oscar, it is important tomention that her success in US cinema was made on the backs of misrecognizedAfrican American women who in real life looked nothing like the Gone With theWind character.Thenext stereotype is the Jezebel. The Jezebel stereotype represents AfricanAmerican women as promiscuous man-eaters whose sexual appetites. Just like thestereotype of the mammy, the jezebel was invented to rationalize the concept ofslavery.
In the nineteenth century, women there was a strict dress code forwomen that made them adhere to a code of piety. This image of the virtuousVictorian lady contrasted sharply with African American women working inslavery. Many black women were forced to work half naked; labouring in cotton fields with theirskirts hiked up.
In order for white slave-owners to reconcile with the factthat they forced these women to nudity, the jezebel image was created tojustify their cruel behaviour and reaffirm white superiority. SH5 The next stereotype I’m going to discuss is The Sapphire. The Sapphire,also known as the angry black woman (ABW) stereotype, depicts an AfricanAmerican woman as a loud, verbally abusive, emasculating matriarch. Whereas themammy can be seen as the symbol of “good” motherhood, the Sapphire symbolizesthe “bad” black mother.
I never realized until I was introduced to these threestereotypes the box that black women were put in in television. When thinkingabout each stereotype, I can distinctly recall a tv show or movie where theblack women fit into the molds I presented. The last stereotype I’m going topresent is the Strong Black Women. The stereotype of the strong black woman,also often referred to as “the superwoman complex”, was developed by AfricanAmerican women themselves to fight back against the degrading three previouslydiscussed stereotypes that were created by white Americans. African Americanwomen wanted to create a more positive image of themselves and one that blackwomen could actually look up to.
This stereotype is a blend of all the positivetraits of the previous stereotypes into the ultimate independent black women.She can take care of herself and doesn’t need a man to pay her bills or takecare of her. Unfortunately, this sometimes puts African-American women in a boxbecause it also links these characteristics with suppressing their emotions inorder to achieve thisSH6 .
Allfour of these stereotypes of black women can be found in television, eventoday. Everybody Hates Chris depicts Rochelle as a sassy, no-nonsense motherwhose pride keeps her from working at any job where she feels disrespected orunappreciated. She is extremely strict with her three children and oftenchallenges her husband. The connection between Rochelle’s parenting style andher blackness encourages viewers to stereotype black mothers as loud,domineering, and extremely harsh with their children and it draws onpreviously-existing stereotypes, and her representation in Everybody HatesChris only reinforces this idea of black mothers. The popularity of theloudmouthed, obnoxious, and strict Rochelle speaks to the appeal of EverybodyHates Chris and the same can be applied with Sylvia Fine in The Nanny. —manyviewers like these shows and watch because of its stereotype-dependent humor.Shows like The Nanny and Everybody Hates Chris exemplify the dramatization anduniversality of the media’s portrayal of motherhood in not only Jewish culturebut in minority culture as well. EasternEuropean Jews lived for centuries in small villages known as shtetls coveringareas of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary and bythe 19th century,a large amount of the world’s population of Jewish people lived in this area.
According to Hant, “Shtetl life was a harsh, but idealized life of family,community, and commitement”6.Thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the US during the1880’s-1920’s and from this environment (in America), the Jewish Mother wasborn. Hant also talks about how the Jewish Mother was caused by the “periods ofpersecution” and “numerous superstitions that require extreme parentingvigilance” that caused the mother to be seen as the protector of the family7 . This versionof the Jewish mother was the one that arrived to America during this period ofimmigration. There is a positive portratal of the caring mother, alwaysavailable to listen, to help, to feed, to comfort a sick child. She is alsonurturing and excessively offers food which is symbolic to her, her family, andlove.
Some of the more negative aspects of the stereotype originate from theimmigrant Jewish parent’s ambitions for their child to be successful. Deinmakes the argument that the Jewish mother “derives vicarious social status fromthe achievements of her children, where she is unable to achieve such statusherself”8. Since theparents are unable to take full advantage of American education themselves, theneed for success and social status transfers from them to their children.
Thestereotype of the overbearing, over- involved, suffocating Jewish mother hasbeen a television staple since the beginning days of broadcasting in the 1940’sand l950’s9 .Thecharacter Sylvia Fine in the American sitcom The Nanny is an exaggeratedsatirical depiction of the stereotypical Jewish mother. We see that she has a”smothering” relationship with Fran she is outlandishly dressed,materialistic, dominating. It is a skewed vision of the Jewish mother that’sused in order to create more humor for the show. Mrs. Wolowitz, from the BigBang Theory was depicted as gout-ridden and and food-obsessed as well as herunwillingness to let her son lead his own life.
Hereare two different inteteractions between Howard and his mother from the tvshow:Howard:The doctor says you need to get exercise!Mrs Wolowitz: I get plenty of exercise!Howard: Crushing my will to live isn’t exercise! 10Mrs.Wolowitz: Howard, have you seen my girdle?Howard: No, ma!Mrs. Wolowitz: I can’t find it and I’m late for my Weight Watchers meeting!Howard: Maybe it committed suicide! 11 Theidealized mother, a mother with all the answers who appears to live arelatively happy life, apparently unburdened by any concerns outside herobligations as dutiful mother, has been promoted by the popular media, seen inthe now-classic television shows like The Brady Bunch, and Father Knows Best,among many others. Television has constructed an image of motherhood based onthe middle-class WASP ideal, which contrasts sharply with the lived experiencesof minority people.
“Motherhood occurs in specific historical situations framedby interlocking structures of race, class, and gender…For women of color, thesubjective experience of mothering/motherhood is inextricably linked to thesociocultural concern of racial ethnic communities—one does not exist withoutthe other”11. This contrasts with the generally unfunny WASP-y mother characters fromnon-minority mothers on tv and could be the key reason why (use as supportingparagraph, not in thesis). This could be another reason why women of color aredepicted the way they are on tv. Of course, American history is filled withmistreatment of people of minority races, and some of these stereotypes Imentioned are a direct result of this. However, it’s important to recognizethat what the Nanny, The Big Bang Theory, and Everybody Hates Chris is thatit’s funny. The typical WASP mother is not typically the funny character.
SH1Hereis where you footnote the “literature on media representation of minorities.”You may have more than one source in a single footnote. SH2Tvshow names in italics SH3Booktitles in italics SH4Youdon’t need to repeat this. SH5Thisis not your language. Use quotation marks when pulling words directly fromother authors. Much of this paper appears to be plagiarized from a Dutch student’sthesis: https://lib.
ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/002/162/804/RUG01-002162804_2014_0001_AC.pdf SH6Halfwaythrough the paper and I’m not clear what your argument is besides the fact thatsitcoms reiterate stereotypes about ethnic minorities. This is a claim that isnot arguable. That is, an intelligent person would not be able to argue theopposite. I also so far have no sense that this is a paper that will becomparing black and Jewish mothers.
What is your argument? And what is yourargument about Jews?