Race and Gender in Scifi Movies

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Sociology 190|
Race & Gender in Science Fiction |
[1968-2008]|
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Noble Hauser|
11/25/2012|

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Ever since the invention of the silver screen, people have projected society’s views into movies. Every year, millions of people sit in at theaters, and are subject to the themes and messages put in front of them. From the submissive Dorothy from Wizard of Oz to the ever-present white protagonist, fiction and reality have always mirrored each other, and movies have either served as a progressive power or an echo of that culture’s beliefs (Anderson 2010). Race and gender differences have promoted hatred, discrimination, and inequality since the conception of the United States. In America’s relatively modern history, the society has taken public steps away from the sexist and racist ways. Nevertheless, racism and sexism have been ever-present in a more implicit fashion (Ketchum 1976). With movies being a private industry, however, it is possible for discriminatory and/or sexist implications to be present. With the increasing movie revenues, it is important to recognize and identify the messages being subtly implied by the media. With repeated exposure to these themes, it becomes all the more likely that racial and sexist norms can be socialized in society (O’Neil 2011). For the purposes of research, race can be defined using the traditional fabrications, being white, black, Asian, and Latino. For the purposes of this research, racial stereotypes are not being analyzed; rather the presence, or lack of, a variety of races and their status in the movies. To find racial preference, white characters being the main protagonist, love interests, or mentors will also be distinguished as bias towards white people. Another issue that could potentially plague the cinema is gender discrimination. Unlike race, gender perceptions are much less subtle, and easier to distinguish. For example, if a woman is dependent on a male character, emotionally unstable, feeble, sexualized, and/or submissive are clear signs of sexism. On the flip side, male characters who are strong, independent, protagonists, and emotionally stable are overt examples of a presumption of masculine dominance. Seeing as how the issue of race and gender has appeared to progress in recent years, it was important to select a sample of movies that not only were only high grossing in the box office, but also movies that represented various times in the United States. By doing this, there was an increased understanding of the evolution and progression of the racial or a gender stereotype throughout recent history. One genre in particular, however, was able to reach the most fans across time than any other. Science-fiction, or sci-fi, movies are often littered with different species, but it is still possible that the same racial and gender stereotypes of humans can be expressed in the movies. In order to accurately represent the time periods, the movies The Planet of the Apes, released in 1968, Star Wars Episode VI- Return of the Jedi, released in 1983, and Star Trek, released in 2009, were scrutinized. Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, and Star Trek most accurately represented the sci-fi fandom of their times, and motivated millions of people to be subjected to their messages. In order to determine the underlying implications of the movie, the aforementioned races of white, black, Latino, and Asian were noted in a table labeled “Racial Undertones of Sci-Fi Movies” in a column under the movie title. Similarly, the traditional definitions, as abovementioned, were meticulously noted in a table labeled “Gender Stereotypes in Sci-Fi Movies” in the movie’s respective column. When looking for racist and sexist themes in a movie, especially in the more modern ones, it was more important to look for subtle and implied forms of it. For example, if a group was particularity dominant, it was important look at the character’s race. The player’s race can subtly imply...
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