Garfield Senior High School

Commentary: Are movies racist?

How often do you think people use inappropriate racial slurs and stereotypes without knowing their true impact? Well, a lot more than you may expect.

This has nothing to do with racism, oppression, or even internal prejudice. No, this is due to the entertainment industry. Specifically, how the entertainment industry utilizes stereotypes and slurs as a form of entertainment.

This is more apparent in comedic movies that use derogatory terms and slurs as jokes or puns. The movie centers the “funny” aspect of its content on these jokes and puns in order to get viewers to laugh and, more importantly, remember the movie.

The movies do turn out to be memorable thanks to these jokes but not in the way we would like. People who hear these stereotypical jokes take them as just that: jokes. Consequently, people leave the real meaning behind each stereotype and slur in the dust, thus, underestimating the impact these words can have.

Think of it like this: a man sees a funny movie filled with stereotypical jokes. Then this man believes these jokes to be widely accepted so he decides to use them outside of the movie theater. Now this man, believing his purpose of using the joke to be strictly funny, says that same racist joke out in public. Some may find it funny but for those who find themselves the subject of the joke, the joke could be found insulting.  These people will see the joke as offensive and, most important, not funny. Indeed, some people are bound to find these jokes as discriminatory which leads to a confrontation of racism and bias. So tell me who is to blame?

Despite how hilariously funny some of these movies may be, they still have a negative outcome.

An example of said movies are the ones Adam Sandler appears in, everyone knows the comedian Adam Sandler. Right? Now before I start I would like to point out and make it clear to everyone that this is not an “attack” onSandler. That said, an article published by the internet news site The Daily Dot and written by Feliks Garcia titled “5 Adam Sandler movies that are way more racist than you remember,” details movies that Adam Sandler plays a major role in and, as the title implies, are more racist than you probably thought.

Of the five movies, the ones that caught my attention the most we’re “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and “Jack and Jill.” These are undoubtedly good comedic movies but at the same time it’s as racist as it is funny. For example, in “Jack and Jill,” the lead character employs a Mexican gardener with a large number of family members. This movie embraces the stereotype that all Mexicans are gardeners and have huge families who are all named Juan and can come back from the dead thanks to the smell of a red-hot Jalapeno.

In the real world, Mexicans do work jobs of manual labor to support their families but they also contribute much more than manual labor to the U.S. economy. Sure, the movie plays it off as a joke but many immigrants, myself included, find this extremely  offensive and belittling.

As for “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” the stereotype that is depicted is that of the post 9/11 Arabic culture and how Arabs are generally associated with terrorism. Yes, the ending of the movie portrays the Arabic culture in a positive light but this does not dismiss the fact that the movie used Arab culture as a joke and entertainment in the first place.

These are only some of the examples of movies that have used cultural stereotypes as a way to make themselves “comedic.” But we need to recognize this concept and rationalize when, where, and how to utilize said jokes. There is still a chance for some problems to occur due to people using the jokes. You must look beyond these jokes and realize the true culprit is the entertainment business and their “funny” movie.