A Case Study of the Portrayal of Mexican People in the American Media
By: Joyce Li

“Man on Fire” was the movie that was released on 2004 and the movie is talking about how a daughter of a Mexican was kidnapped. At the beginning, it stated  “There were 24 kidnappings in Mexico City. In the last 6 days.” It portrayed how it is dangerous to travel to Mexico and it also showed the negative aspect such as kidnapping and violence. (Scott,1) In the movie, the father is a drug dealer which illustrate the ideas from the case study “Documenting Portrayals of Race/ Ethnicity of Primetime Television over a 20-year Span and Their Association with National Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes” stated that television shows in the US and how Latinos were under-representations. (Tukachinsky,13) This is interesting to see because we all know that Latinos is such a large racial group in the states but for many reasons, such as being immigrants, doing labor work and no sufficient english skills make them fit in the category of minorities. Most of the TV shows portrayed them as “Maid” “Immigrants” “Drug Dealers” or so. These concepts are learned from how the society construct the meaning because we might not know about them until we watch the news, movies or media and how they showed us is a way for us to learn about the word.

man on fire(Image source: screenshot)

One of the example would be the main characters of “Man on Fire” who were the drug dealers. There are lots of places that have a higher rate of drug dealers, but the media corporation decided to portray them in the stereotypical way. As we can see on the media, we often see white males as the dominant. In the article “The Business of Media Corporate Media and the Public Interest” written by Croteau stated about how the media is related to the markets and the public and it can function differently. Basically, the market models work with how the producers want to let the company work and how to make more money based on the feedback they get and the public model works when the public want to know some particular information then they will go from there. Croteau stated “Because they are constantly trying to increase profits, companies must develop new ways to deliver goods and services at the lowest cost. This encourages efficiency on the part of producers and ensures low prices for consumers” (17, Corteau). Which means that they only care about themselves and most of them would think that if they put some dominant races and not the minorities then they would earn more profit.

This gave us a sense where the ideas of dominant and minorities works in the media. We learn about things from the media and also stereotypes. The article “Representation” written by Stuart Hall mentioned about how the meaning is created from the culture. He stated “Representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It does involve the use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things”    (1, Hall). How do we know the word minorities? It is because the meaning has been created and to change it over times and we get a sense of what the meaning is from the society. The society including the media outlets has been playing a major role of educating people about certain things and how people should perceive things in this way. Sometimes, representation can go wrong about things like the negative effect of it. How we view Mexican people is one way that representation has been shaping our mind. We usually see words describing them like “Macho” “Gardener” and “Drug dealers” which I believe not majority of them fits the category. This is the reason of how people learn about other’s culture and how people always stereotype a certain culture even they didn’t get to know about them.

mexicans in the media
(Image source: https://diversitygroup16.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/negative.jpg)

“When Latinos are represented, they just play stereotypes” which means “women continue to be overly sexualized and men equally have to be the dominant, macho role” (12, Latimer). This is interesting to see since the stereotype hasn’t change overtime. The movie example would be how the drug dealer’s American wife have to move with him to Mexico because of the power that he has and the business that he had to maintain although she knew it was a sacrifice. Men always have the higher power comparing to women because of the stereotype that the media taught us.


Works Cited:

(1) Croteau, David, and William Hoynes.The business of media: corporate media and the public
interest. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 2007. Print.

(2) Hall, S. (1997). Chapter 1:Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices
London: Sage Publications & Open University.

(3) Latimer, Brian. “Latinos in Hollywood: Few Roles, Frequent Stereotypes, New Study Finds.”com.
NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

(4) Man on Fire. Dir. Tony Scott. 20th century fox, 2004. Film

(5) Tukachinsky, Riva, et al. “Documenting Portrayals of Race/Ethnicity of Primetime Television over
a 20-year Span and Their Association with National level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes.” Journal of
Social Issues, vol. 71, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp.17-38. EBSCOhost


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(Feature Image source: Mexican Stereotypes)