Sociology of Imagery and Perception

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Photos are objects that faithfully represent the visual image, such as images that bear resemblances to an individual or an object. Image types may be two-dimensional, such as computer screens and images, or three-dimensional, such as sculptures (Baldick 4). There are three categories of pictures in the film industry: Still, pictures are single static images, film still photos are photographs taken on the set of a movie for advertising purposes, and moving images are whole movies or recordings. When people look at these images, they form various perceptions, which is why the word "perception" is used. This work therefore critically analyses the representation of the marginalized groups of the world and makes an attempt to deconstruct the stereotypes that are as a result of negative perceptions of images in films and television industries.

In the American society and throughout the 20th century, minority groups of the world have found themselves pushed to the corners of society due to people’s negative perception of their religion, race, gender or sex. Taking an example of Black Americans and their struggle to gain equality in the American space, blacks rated as second class citizens of America since history. These are due to their slave history, and their African descent. These have profoundly contributed to the Black Americans portrayed with negative stereotypes that have reinforced white supremacy over the blacks,(Simpson 7).These also have had a significant effect on the people’s perception of blacks in films and movies creating a negative impact on the public mind as several stereotypes have been set up concerning Black Americans. These stereotypes depict blacks as lazy, foolish, submissive, childish and ape-like and mostly these stereotypes are spread and reinforced by the negative portrayal of the blacks in the media through films and movies. The negative portrayal of the blacks has therefore had tremendous effects on their life as they have created stereotypes.

Common Stereotypes about African -Americans and their possible solutions

People’s common perception of a particular social phenomenon is what we term as a stereotype. A stereotype can portray a social or natural phenomenon either positively or negatively depending on the impression it creates. Hollywood being largest film industry in The United States of America and has for a long time portrayed Black Americans negatively. They have always been the culprits of negative stereotypic portrayal in the following ways:

Black Americans settled in The United States of America through the slavery process. Due to this process, Black Americans for a long time have always been seen as slaves and the occupants of the lowest class in American society. They are poor and subjects to their American masters who own them. Due to this belief, black Americans are even suffering as slaves even in the movies. In the Movie Twelve Years a Slave, Black characters suffer under the hands of the white supremacist who are their masters. They are brutalized and killed anyhow with no one caring. These negative portrayal Black Americans has hurt their lives, especially in the white-dominated American society as they have been facing ridicule and negative criticism. They are also portrayed to live in slums and ghettoes of The American Society.

Black -Americans’ black race has also been depicted negatively in movies. Blacks are viewed as Inhuman and ape-like and unfit to live in harmony with people of other races. Blacks are portrayed majorly in movies as drug dealers, thugs, thieves, and blackmailers. Their image is distorted as they are perceived as a source of Insecurity hence leading to a creation of a gap between blacks and other races. These have promoted racism and blacks are the primary culprits.

Black Americans also have had a culture of living in communities, and this culture has been portrayed negatively in media (Kiuchi 12).Blacks portrayed as living in ghettoes and corners of the American cities and these ghettoes regularly described by crime and poverty stricken people. These have negatively affected the image of blacks in the world as a whole.

During the early times, blacks were not even hired by film industries to take the ‘black ‘roles because they were seen as foolish by the white supremacists (Lehman 20). Instead, white actors in black faces took over these positions. The roles assigned to the black characters were few mainly aimed at complete demeaning of the black race. Mostly, the characters were created in these movies to show the position black Americans occupied in the American society. As a revolt against these state, a film titled ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ which set in 1914 had Sam Lukas who was a black actor as the leading actor. For the first time in History, Lukas tried to change the image of the world towards the black race by taking the leading role; as the protagonist. Film industries ever since have made several attempts to hire black Americans and giving them leading roles in their movies as a fight against hence trying to change these stereotypes of white supremacy over blacks.

Black Americans have also been portrayed negatively as people with no morals, values and a sick culture (Moody 9). This is achieved through the assigning of immoral roles and practices to the black characters in movies. These have led to the distortion of the images of blacks in the American society and the world as a whole. A stereotype has come up then that anything immoral, especially in the American society, is directed to blacks, for example, the raping of women and young girls, crime, and devil-worshipping. As a fight back, blacks and film industries have rejected ‘bad’ black roles, and they have created their movies whereby they show blacks in positions of power, authority and worth respect like any other person in the world. This positive portrayal and high ranking of blacks have helped significantly in the raising of the self -esteem to all blacks in American society and also their dignity as humans.

Black women are victims too as they have also been stereotyped in films as having attitude problems. They are viewed as very aggressive and deafening, portrayals that have had negative impacts on both their love life and careers (Laufs 35). People have always had negative attitudes toward the black women due to the images about them as portrayed in the movies as ‘sassy and ugly.’ They put on make-up as an attempt to resemble the ‘supreme, beautiful white women. They also put on hair extensions and are also obese and consume a lot of food as compared to the white women. Most black women are white-washed or stuck up according to the movies. Though these films can be entertaining to watch, they have had an adverse impact on the public view of the black women and their position in society and race in general. As a revolt, most people have raised criticism on these portrayals of black women. Movie industries are making attempts to change these perceptions and stereotypes through the creation of films which present black female characters as excellent, principal actors, agents of change and custodians of good morals and values to be emulated by other people in societies. Also, reality shows by black women have been created to uplift their spirit and be a source of encouragement and a social platform to discuss their problems.


Negative criticism and any social prejudice is, therefore, a psychological factor and can change with the help of film industries. These can be achieved by the creation, portrayal, and treatment of all their characters equally in their movies. If all characters treated equally, no standard course regarding perception can arise and therefore the positive perception of images. These are the major ‘medicine’ for subjective stereotypes

Work cited:

Baldock, Cora V, and Jim Lally. Sociology in Australia and New Zealand. , 1974. Print.

Kiuchi, Yuya. Struggles for Equal Voice: The History of African American Media Democracy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012. Print.

Laufs, Stefanie.Fighting a Movie with Lightning. Hamburg: Diplomica Verlag, 2014.Internet resource.

Lehman, Christopher P. The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009. Print.

Moody, David L. The Complexity and Progression of Black Representation in Film and Television. , 2016. Internet resource.

August 18, 2021

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