P.L. Parker

P.L. Parker

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stereotyping - In the Defense

Webster’s defines stereotyping as “(1) A conventional, formulaic, oversimplied opinion, conception or belief.  (2) One, as a person, group, event, or issue that is thought to typify or conform to an unvarying pattern of manner, lacking any individuality.” 

Character or situation stereotyping is viewed as a big no-no.  But, in reality, how totally individual or unvarying can characters or situations be? No matter the ethnic or cultural background, every situation or individual has characteristics which would place them in a class viewed as a stereotype. I myself can be described as a stereotype. I’m Caucasian, middle-class, middle-aged, married, slightly overweight (I’ll give myself that one), etc. I am therefore the stereotype middle-aged American female. Do I feel threatened by the appellation? No! Though not deferential, the phrase nonetheless defines who I am.

When I’m reading a book, I need to connect with the characters.  I need to imagine in my mind what this person looks like, what this person is feeling and how they fit into my pre-conceived ideas of how this person should react.  Stereotyping is a means to assist the reader in forming a mental image of what we wish to convey.  Describing a hero as a skinny, short guy with bad skin and an oily smile would not convey the message meant to suggest. But, on the other hand, his physical characteristics (stereotyping) do lend themselves to what we perceive as the sinister side of humanity.

So is stereotyping wrong? I think not. What do you believe?



Becca said...

the creative writer knows how to use enough of a stereotype to make the character easy to envision while still contributing layers of character depth, nuance, personality, and individualism to make a character a unique person (like a fingerprint!).

P.L. Parker said...

Thanks Becca, I agree.