Media Portrayals of Marginalized Groups in American Media
By: Riley Robertson, Joyce Li, Kevin Ho, Steve Kao
Editor: Adrienne Carley


Language and communication are the ways in which we create and maintain our culture and society. By having a shared language, and developing similar symbolic vocabulary, individuals of a society can grow closer and communicate easier, creating meaning in everything. Communication and meaning production, however, feature a great power dynamic that has the possibility of harming entire groups of people.

America was established and has been maintained as a white supremacist patriarchy; white men are the most powerful. Because of this, women and people of color have fewer opportunities to establish meaning for themselves. Thus white men establish and maintain the ways in which women and people of color are represented in the media, which, in turn, influences the ways in which the greater American society views and treats those communities.  

Stereotypes are a recurring portrayal of a certain group identity in society; it is often a generalization that does not hold true for the majority of that community. The American media will most often use negative stereotypes to represent marginalized groups, which may lead to violence against individual members of those communities. Language and meaning are never fixed, however, so if those in power change the ways they portray these marginalized communities, American culture and society will change.  The following case studies highlight the ways in which the American media  portray women and Black, Muslim, and Mexican people.  

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