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Journal Article


Klein H, Shiffman KS. Howard J. Commun. 2009; 20(1): 55-72.


(Copyright © 2009, Informa - Taylor and Francis Group)






For many years, the mass media have been accused of providing negative and potentially-damaging messages to viewers. Some have complained that the media are replete with too much violence while others have lamented on media stereotyping of various groups. In this article, the authors examine the issues of underrepresentation and symbolic annihilation as they apply to one particular medium-namely, animated cartoons-to which people are exposed early in life, typically on a regular basis for many years. Our principal research questions are (a) To what extent do cartoons underrepresent and/or symbolically annihilate social groups that are not considered desirable in society-at-large? (b) Has underrepresentation and/or symbolic annihilation changed over time? and (c) When social "out-groups" are shown, how are they depicted vis-a-vis "in groups"? To examine these questions, the authors examine portrayals based on gender, age, race, and sexual orientation. The data revealed that animated cartoons have a long history of underrepresenting and symbolically annihilating socially devalued out groups and that little has changed over the course of the past 65+ years. When out group members are included in cartoons, however, their portrayals tend not to be dramatically different-not better and not much worse-than those typical of their in group counterparts.


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