Discrimination and Prejudice in Movies



Movie tonight anyone???

Yes please………I would like mine with a sprinkling of stereotype and prejudice…..oh, and a dash of discrimination thrown in please! Thank you.


 Stereotyping and Prejudice are topics none of us are alien to. But where do these behaviours come from???

Negative behaviour typesets usually are a product of our cultural beliefs, ideas passed on from parent to child, from our cultural association and wider community that we are part of. The reason behind these biases is ignorance– where we are not aware of or do not want to know anything beyond our scope of understanding. Illiteracy or half-baked knowledge and ‘I know best’ type of mentality too can hamper our understanding and affect our biases.

Another very significant influence that we all live under, one that has a subtle and sometimes shocking, but always a very profound impact on us is – the MEDIA. Movies, TV, news reports, newspapers, magazines are a very significant part of our lives…..encroaching on us, creeping into our minds, demanding our attention in every way possible. In this blog we will be focussing on the damaging effects of movies on the masses.

It is not a novel idea…Movies have been shaping our thoughts and views of stereotypes and prejudices for many decades now, and still keep influencing us to date.


There are all sorts of stereotypes that movies have created in our minds:

  • Racism- is top of the list.



Others include: (in no greater or lesser extent)

  • Gender inequality

Portrayal of socio-economic status like

  • wealthy people, poor people,
  • ethnic characters,
  • librarians,
  • villains,
  • heroes and heroines, to name but a few.


Representation of Race/ Ethnicity

According to a study done in 2013, in the University of Southern California, in the top grossing 500 films, there were over 75% of white actors and the other 25% were divided amongst Hispanic, Asian, Black and others. This study was bone in films from movies from 2007 -2012 (Dr. Smith, S.L, Choueiti, M & Dr. Pieper, K., 2013)

Here is the full article link.



Disney movies that kids and adults love to watch all over the world are quite guilty of stereotyping their animated and non-animated films. To see a sample of these movies, please click on the following link



Portrayal of Arabs in Movies: Blockbuster “True Lies” 1994, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a spy for a secret American government agency featuring a fictional terrorist group named “Crimson Jihad”.

Another example is Disney’s “Aladdin” 1992, featuring all Arabs as barbaric with grotesque facial features (huge noses and sinister eyes).

Also Arab women featured in “Aladdin” are all scantily clad, exotic belly dancers which is so far removed from the truth! In real life, most Arab women are so heavily covered from head to toe, you can barely see their eyes as they even wear gloves, socks and naqab (face cover).


Here are links to several websites which contain lists of stereotypic films…







Ironically, there is prejudice in the Hollywood film industry itself, which is pretty male- dominated. The storylines in films are more male- orientated. Men are lean-mean-fighting machines, clever, resourceful, brave, strong and sometimes even charming and courteous  to boot!…Women, on the other hand, are more often scantily clad, portrayed as sex objects, helpless damsels- in- distress, who constantly need rescuing from some sort of imminent danger.

The female actors are paid much less than their male counterparts, even when their roles are just as, if not more important. Here is an interesting article written on the above topic.


A British lecturer, Dr Charles Da Costa, wrote about stereotyping in animated films. According to him, producing animation films is a long, tedious and labour-intensive procedure. And, one of the easiest ways to represent multi-culturism  is to use “stereotypes”. The Guardian has printed an article on stereotypes and racial prejudice. Click below to read about it.



How should we overcome our feelings of prejudice and train ourselves to be unbiased??? Can we ensure that our future generation is not cultivating the prejudices of their ancestors and treating everyone alike??? Perhaps starting with ourselves and our attitudes. If we can break our mould and perhaps change our disposition a little…towards a differently- abled person, or a differently coloured person and become more accepting of our differences………

then perhaps we can create a better future for our children……….and leave a legacy of….tolerance and acceptance.


Perhaps it’s a matter for the film classification boards. They could put a warning on the certificate: “Contains mild fantasy violence, very mild language, a white-supremacist subtext, and grotesquely derogatory portrayals of ethnic minorities.” Or: “Probably won’t make your child into a racist, but sure as hell ain’t gonna help.” It’s not as if children have demanded any of this, but they are the ones soaking it all in. It goes without saying that racism is learned, and how diversity is portrayed on screen is a big part of that learning process. One day, our children could look back on these movies in the same way that we see Song of the South, and wonder why their parents did so little about an iniquity that was staring them in the face. (Rose, S., Online resource).





Dr. Smith, S.L, Choueiti, M & Dr. Pieper, K., 2013. Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism *Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content held in the Hand of the Black Director?

Rose, S., 2014. The Guardian. Repressed Brits, evil Mexicans, Arab villains: why are Hollywood’s animated movies full of racist stereotypes?




2 thoughts on “Discrimination and Prejudice in Movies

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for your kind comments and interesting questions on our blog.

    As far as inspiration in concerned, it started off with the fact that we had lots of research done already on the subject of discrimination and our first blog needed downsizing! So, we decided to save the research on movies for our next blog. That was a very uninspiring germination of this blog, but as we did more research, it got us more interested in the subject and the result is up there. The topic in itself is controversial and engaging.

    Life with our younger counterparts a.k.a. children is a walk on an oiled tightrope, with stilts on. Or maybe not that impossible, but definitely not a walk in the park. It has to be a well-balanced act. I think exposure to discrimination and prejudice is not something we can completely avoid, and neither can our younger audiences.In that light,it maybe a better idea is to discuss the storyline with them after watching the said movie and try to break down stereotypes and prejudices, wherever possible. Of course, the discussion has to be age appropriate. Knowledge is power and education is enlightment. It is our job to empower our children with both. And to do that we must reduce our own narrow-minded judgements first.
    There is a very interesting quote I read which sums up what I want to say quite well :
    “Don’t worry that your children don’t listen to you. Worry that they watch you”.

    Hope you found an answer in my brief explanation above.
    Thank you for reading it.

    Best wishes,


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