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Jordan Starnes Student Excellence Showcase Carroll Community College

Course: Cinema and Culture, COMM-220
Mary Wallace
Assignment Title:
Analysis of Stereotypes in Film

Assignment Details

Hollywood has a long, unfortunate, and damaging history of using types and stereotypes for characterization in their movies and TV shows. These characterizations reinforce broad cultural stereotypes that often lack the context from the culture they are borrowed from.  In this assignment we were given several contemporary independent movies that centered around different underrepresented minority groups. We had to pick one and analyze how the film depicted its particular group. These directors were not a part of the communities they were showcasing; how did that impact the filmmaking? How did the film address the stereotypes that are associated with that group? Then, we were asked to research the history of how that specific demographic has been treated in our culture and how film can both reinforce and fight against stereotypes, depending on the film and the creators. 


In the future I want to use this whole assignment as a template for how I examine other examples of representation in films. This assignment featured choices of other films that examined other  underrepresented groups like the LGBTQ+ community or Native Americans. In recent years Hollywood has taken steps to give more opportunities for minority stories to be told in a more realistic way,  but it is still important to acknowledge the many negative stereotypes movies have exploited throughout history. That was my big takeaway I’ll keep with me going forward, watching modern movies with a recognition of movie history.


The movie I selected was WINTER’S BONE from 2010 directed by Debra Granik. This film is centered around a rural community in the Ozark mountains, and tackles many of the stereotypes centered around poor southern Americans. I examined the history how Hollywood has (often poorly) represented rural Americans from sitcoms like I Love Lucy to movies like Deliverance. I also pointed out how Debra Granik, as a filmmaker, chose to show some of the negative stereotypes around drug use and gun control and puts them in the context of a family fighting to survive. I pointed out the filmmaking techniques that Granik used that reinforce that context, like using a simple camera pan across a living room can reveal all the pictures and trinkets of a lived-in home, giving proper emotional stakes without any dialogue. 

Challenges and Successes

I think the biggest challenge I faced in this assignment was gaining an understanding of the history of rural Americans and their depictions on screen. To properly understand what negative characterizations Granik was trying to contextualize, I had to research how exactly these negative stereotypes gained traction in our culture, then relate that to WINTER’S BONE by analyzing the filmmaking techniques.