Stereotyping in "Finding Nemo"
According to the textbook, Social Psychology by Aronson, Wilson and Ekert, stereotyping is, "a generalization about a group in which identical characteristics are assigned to virtually all members of the group, regardless of actual variation among the members" (Aronson et al, 597). In other words, stereotyping occurs when assumptions are made about a group and its members, regardless of whether all the members possess the attributions of the assumptions. Some stereotypes are formed to make us feel better about ourselves and about the group to which we belong, while other stereotypes are formed to help us better understand and categorize the world around us. Stereotyping and other theories closely related to it will find meaning and explanation in the movie "Finding Nemo." An example of a (neutral) stereotypical statement would be, "All tomatoes are red." While it is true that most tomatoes possess the characteristic of being red, some tomatoes are not red. Therefore, the exemplified stereotype that "all tomatoes" are red is erroneous. The errors committed by stereotyping are demonstrated time and again in the movie "Finding Nemo".
The first scene which poses an example of stereotyping takes place when Marlin, Nemo's dad, is swimming Nemo to his first day of school. On their way, the pair of clown fish are joined by three other fish-parents. The three parents then coerce Marlin into telling them a joke. They are presuming that because he is a clown fish he will also be funny. The fish parent addressing Marlin says, "Hey! You're a clown fish! You're funny right? Tell us a joke!" Marlin responds, "Well, actually, that's a common misconception. Clown fish are no funnier than any other fish." This scene serves as a perfect example of stereotyping. It is assumed that because clowns are generally funny, Marlin, the clown fish, would also be funny. When in fact, Marlin is very poor at telling jokes. As the movie progresses Marlin himself will use stereotyping, attempting to better understand his sea surroundings. While swimming in a strange and frightening place, there is much to learn. During their quest, Marlin and Dory accidentally cross paths with a great white shark named Bruce. Marlin is absolutely petrified because he inaccurately assumes that sharks always eat fish. After Marlin shies away from Bruce's handshake, the shark directly confronts this fish-eating stereotype, by saying "Oh I know, why trust a shark?" When Marlin makes the assumption that the sharks are going to eat Dory and himself, he falls prey to another yet type of stereotyping. Assuming that sharks always eat fish exemplifies the ultimate attribution error. The ultimate attribution error is, "the tendency to make dispositional attributions about an entire group
" (Aronson et. al, 481). Marlin erroneously assumes that all sharks have a fish-eating disposition. Following his attribution error, Marlin recounts to the sharks the heinous tale of Nemo's abduction by a human diver. In a disgusted response, the smallest shark remarks, "Humans, they think they own everything!" "Probably American!" the hammerhead adds.
These stanzas both illustrate negative stereotypes in action. First, the sharks classify all humans (an out-group) as selfish and materialistic by saying, "they think they own everything". This is obviously not true, as there are instances in which people are not selfish or materialistic. Secondly, the hammerhead makes an attribution about Americans. His remark reflects back on the smallest shark's statement. So, here, the hammerhead is attributing that Americans are humans who "think they own everything." In other words, the hammerhead attributes the negative stereotype to all Americans because he holds Americans to a certain, obviously negative, esteem. This is another instance where a fallacy of assumption has been made. Nemo's kidnapper is not, in fact, an American, but an...
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