I’m never surprised when I see stereotypes pop up in television and movies. Though they are disturbing representations that affect how our race is perceived, I’m usually not shocked when they show up. For someone like myself, who’s obsessed with screen media and the impact it has on our beliefs and attitudes
, understanding the historical presence of stereotypes often explains the modern stereotypes that continue to appear in movies and televisionshocked
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the token black friend in every show and movie ever. Photo: Litsossk.wordpress.com
The coonThe generally ridiculous black man. Considered to be foolish or a buffoon with no sexual appeal. Examples include Buckwheat of The Little Rascals
. Photo: thaivisa.com
Also known as the tragic Mulatto, this woman or girl is biracial — black and white. She's often portrayed as hyper-sexual and meets a very dramatic downfall because her life is ruined by her black blood. Examples include Fredi Washington’s character Peola in Imitation of Life or Lena Horne’s character in
Cabin in the Sky. Photo: BlackThen.com
The mammyTypically big, black and fat, the mammy is considered to be the female version of the coon. She is completely non-sexual. She often appears wearing dowdy clothing and looking generally unattractive. Examples include Hattie McDaniel’s character in Gone With the Wind
or Tyler Perry as Madea. Photo: TheWrap
The big, scary black man who is so sexual he cannot contain himself. Examples include the black character in The Birth of a Nation who rapes the white woman.
Photo: Chicago Tribune
The nerdThis type is awkward and silly but has a big heart. They are always chasing after girls who won’t give them the time of day. Examples include Carlton in The
Matters or more recently, Junior in Black-ish.
The sassy black friendThey keep it real for their white friends and they are often presented as being strong and independent, so much so that they don’t need love. Examples include Amber Riley’s character Mercedes in
Glee or Titus in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
. Photo: Tumblr
The angry black woman
This stereotype plagues all black women no matter where they go. This character is mad all the time and no one seems to know why -- despite all the racism, misogyny and oppression that exist as perfectly good reasons for being mad. Examples include Bailey in Grey’s Anatomy and the entirety of
Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Photo: Hypable
The thugThe black guy who’s doing drugs, selling drugs or is in a gang. He’s extremely violent and has no problem killing anyone who gets in his way. Examples include Priest in Superfly
or Doughboy from Boyz n the Hood.
The ghetto black womanLoud and brash, this character has sass for days. Don’t mistake her for the sassy black friend! Though they are similar, the ghetto black woman is not considered to be acceptable where the sassy black friend is. People are often afraid of the ghetto black woman. Examples include Tasha from
The Game. Photo: Pinterest
The black horror movie tokenThey're in the movie for about five minutes before they're killed off. Think of any horror movie ever for an example. Photo: AtlantaBlackStar
The drug addictAll you see is that character doing drugs or trying to get drugs. Think of Samuel L. Jackson’s characters in Jungle Fever
The white wifeShe's shown up so often that she's become her own type. She's supportive and faithful to her husband, so much so that it becomes her character flaw. She's also extremely sexual. Examples include Kelly in
The Game or Rhonda Lyon in Empire
. Photo: Some Cards
The bummy black dude
This guy is always mooching off of someone. He's living in his mama or his baby mama’s house. He won’t get a job, but thinks he deserves to be treated like a king. Think of Jody and Jody’s friend in the movie Baby Boy.
The church womanShe’s always talking about Jesus, even when Jesus might not be all that relevant. Think of Jenifer Lewis’ character Ruby in
The thotAlso known as the hoe or the side chick. No one respects her, but everyone runs through her. She might want to be the main b*tch, but it will never happen. She actually has feelings, but you wouldn’t know it because nobody ever cares about her feelings. She doesn't get a backstory — she often doesn't even get a name! Examples include Mary Jane at the beginning of Being Mary Jane
and all the female characters in YG’s movie Blame It on the Streets.
The unfriendly black hottieAlso known simply as "the b*tch," the term was coined by the movie
Mean Girls but has been a type for a while. She’s mean, selfish and maybe a little angry. Examples include Toni from Girlfriends
or Robin Givens in basically every role she’s done. Photo: BETStereotypes in media are a special form of ignorance and bigotry. But the images are often so subtle, people don't even realize they’re stereotypes. As we see more black folks become big players in the entertainment industry, we’re sure to have more complex, engaging and non-stereotypical characters...and I think we’re all pretty darn excited to see that happen.
What other stereotypes do you see in black characters on films and television? Sound off in the comments!