People think of Hollywood as the most liberal place in the known universe, but really that only goes as far as the drugs and orgies are concerned. When it comes to minorities, Hollywood still seems to have a few shamefully corny and simplistic roles in mind. Here's the six Hollywood stereotypes that can't die soon enough:
#6. The Magic Negro
As Seen in:
The Green Mile, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty, Song of the South
The Magic Negro is a simple, humble person. Perhaps he is a janitor, or a farmer, and he doesn't know anything about those fancy colleges or them modern sciences, but what he knows, he knows from the heart, and that makes it truer than any of your whitey statistics, facts or pie charts.
He can have actual magical powers (Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile) or simply possess an extraordinary level of earthly wisdom (Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption).
In all cases, the Magic Negro has zero ambitions of his own. His entire existence revolves around the lead white character, whom they help with their simple, rustic wisdom even if it costs them their lives. It's as if they have nothing better to do, which they don't, because the plot is about the white guy achieving his goals.What's So Bad About That?
Notice that the Magical Negro's powers are not in any way due to his own work or training at all. He's no Batman. And why do they have to be prisoners or janitors again?
Also, notice that they're still acting as the servant here. They only exist in the story to help the lead white character. That's right, black youth of America: even if you discover you have powers that transcend time and space, you'll still wind up serving the white man. Hell, Morgan Freeman's God in Bruce Almighty basically alters the whole fucking universe, just so Jim Carrey can get his priorities straight.
#5. The Gay/Effeminate Psychopath
As Seen in:
Silence of the Lambs, Stargate, Dune, 3:10 To Yuma, The Powerpuff Girls, Braveheart, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Rob Roy, The Lion King, countless anime.
The Flaming Homo Bad Guy only has one goal in life, to be gayer and more evil than anybody else. If he sees a guy in a salmon-colored shirt and white khakis clubbing a baby seal, the Flaming Homo Bad Guy will put on a pink tutu, gather up some baby seals, kittens and puppies and rent a wood chipper.
He may actually be overtly homosexual (Braveheart) or he may just carry out his evil with a series of effeminate gestures and phrases and show a creepy, semi-erotic fascination with the male hero.What's So Bad About That?
You may be asking why we included this instead of the "Bad Guy With Foreign Accent" seen in countless action movies--the Die Hard films, just for starters.
The difference there is at least there's usually some sort of reason in the plot why the foreign bad guy is foreign. The movie Red Dawn may have been propaganda, but the bad guys were Russian because it was about a war with Russia, not because Russians are inherently dicks.
The effeminate bad guy, on the other hand, plays right to the insecurities of the young, male audience those movies are aimed at, taking everything they find disgusting about homosexuality and using it to ratchet up the horror.
"Look! A serial killer!"
"And he's dancing around naked in a room full of body parts!"
"That's pretty gross, I guess."
"And he's stuffed his junk between his thighs so he looks like a woman!"
"OH JESUS GET OUT OF MY WAY I'M GOING TO BE SICK."
#4. The Latina Maid
As Seen in:
Goonies, Maid in Manhattan, Spanglish, Crash, Mad Money, Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
The Latina Maid's role before was usually played by compact Hispanic women between 30 and 60 years old, but now may be played by J.Lo. The entire role has them in the background of the film running around with a vacuum cleaner, or waving a duster around at some vases removing their dust and your dignity at the same time.
But don't worry! The Latina Maid will usually have her time to shine and use her special secret move in the middle of the movie, when she runs into one of the important lead characters doing something "wacky" like cross-dressing, parading in a Hitler costume, or spreading peanut butter on his genitals in front of the family dog.
At this point the Latina maid will do the sign of the cross at lighting speed multiple times and scream "AY, EL DIABLO!" before running away and screaming hysterically, never to be seen in the foreground again.
If you want details you can always ask actress Lupe Ontiveros ...
What's So Bad About That?
Back in the '50s, Hollywood assumed that by 2000 the American cities would be utopias served by an army of robot servants. So we shouldn't exactly be bursting with pride over the fact that here in the future we've replaced "robots" with "grossly underpaid immigrants."
But why does "Latina Maid" make the list whereas, say, the "Sexy Latino Gardener Who Bangs the Lady of the House" doesn't? The problem is Hollywood has progressed from using the Latina maid as a prop to give those wacky, exaggerated foreigner reactions (i.e., the ending of Goonies) to the more modern, enlightened version where the maid is young and saucy and is the object of lust for the Caucasian male of the house (Maid in Manhattan, Spanglish).
Great job, Hollywood! You've elevated the Latina maid all the way up into "French maid" territory. Can the sexy "Latina maid" Halloween costumes be far behind?
#3. The Mighty Non-Whitey
As Seen in:The Black Knight, Bringing Down the House, Trading Places, Hairspray, Money Talks, Head of State, Bullworth, Houseguest, Big Momma's House 2.
This is a kind of flip-side to a genre of movie you've seen a hundred times. In those films, the white, American male has to live with a non-white or non-American (or both) culture for some reason. At first, white American doesn't like the other culture, but slowly starts adopting it.
At the end of the movie, the white American saves the day with his whitey know-how and is considered a really awesome member of his new community (see The Last Samurai, Dances With Wolves, City of Joy, etc).
The "Mighty Non-Whitey" takes that idea and turns it around, where the jive-talking black guy winds up in some white-dominated situation and turns their world upside down (see Head of State, where a black man runs for president! Ha!)What's So Bad About That?
You'll notice that in the white version of this tale, the white man adopts to the other culture and then excels (will not Dances With Wolves' Kevin Costner be remembered as the greatest Sioux of them all?). But with a black actor in the role, suddenly he's the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a fish out of water, saving the day with dancing, rapping and taking things easy.
At best, the hero is a fast-talking con artist, who's constantly putting one over on the trusting, stuffy whites (Beverly Hills Cop). Usually the tension between cultures is resolved once and for all when the stuffy white man adopts one of his ghetto catchphrases, or, even better, raps a little.
#2. The Wise, Old, Asian Asshole
As Seen in:Big Trouble in Little China, Heroes, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Kill Bill, Norbit, any kung fu movie with a training sequence, any movie with a scene inside a dry cleaning shop.
The mean, old, Asian asshole is usually played by old Asians or British actors pretending they are old Asians (more common back in the day when Asians were too Asian to appear in movies, even as Asians).
As its name can attest, the character is mean, old and a gigantic asshole. His entire purpose in life is to hurt and humiliate any person that wanders into his asshole-radius--or, as the scientists call it, the fuckusphere,--with a litany of insults, snappy comebacks or plain kicks and punches delivered with a heavy, vaguely Asian accent and the usual jumbled grammar.
The catch with this one is that often the Asian asshole turns out to be right in the end. Mr. Miyagi goes out of his way to make the Karate Kid's life hell, teaching his skills in the most annoying way possible all while arbitrarily withholding information that would have made the process easier for everyone. But, in the end, he makes the Karate Kid good at karate, which saves him from living a life with an embarrassingly mismatched nickname.
Even a show like Heroes, with its groundbreaking Japanese lead in Hiro, still introduces the stereotypical Old Asian Asshole in Hiro's father. And in the end, wouldn't you know it, it turns out he was right all along! He just felt the need to be a dick about it.What's So Bad About That?
This one seems to simultaneously play off both our lingering post-World War II nervousness over Japan, and the sense of inferiority Americans have felt since the '80s when we started to realize how much better their cars, TV's and stereos were than ours.
So somehow we wind up with a character who is superior, and who possesses all of the secrets and techniques the white main character needs to succeed, but who for no reason at all will only share them after forcing him to penetrate 13 layers of pure asshole.
#1. The Cowardly/Incompetent Black Sidekick
As Seen in:
The Fifth Element, Dungeons & Dragons, Die Hard, Superman III, and a lot of movies with Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker.
A black cop and a white cop teaming up to defeat terrorist drug dealers/baby snuff porn peddlers is a beautiful and totally normal thing. Ebony, ivory, fighting crime together in harmony!
The problem comes when some higher up sees Lethal Weapon, starts messing with the formula and decides that one half of the team should be "funny." Now, there is nothing wrong with being funny, but then what's funnier than a bumbling, incompetent, annoying, cowardly person fighting crime with a serious, hard-as-nails action hero?
Now make a wild guess and tell us which half of the team is the one getting saddled with the non-heroic role?
What's So Bad About That?
If we have to explain why it's bad that the black guy is always the dumb one and the white guy is the invincible action-god, then we probably don't have enough room here to bring you up to speed.
What is interesting is the Bad Boys franchise, where Martin Lawrence plays the cowardly/incompetent black sidekick, but to a partner who is also black, but just in a more acceptable way. Does that still count? If not, why?
We'll leave that to you to figure out. Write a paper on the subject and turn it in by Thursday.
If you liked that, you just might enjoy our rundown of The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters. Then go watch our video in which the bizarre origins of classic video games are explained.