Presentation on Stereotype and the Ethics of Representation.

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14 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 8 μήνες)

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Stereotype and
the Ethics of

David Steiling

Ringling School of Art

Stereotype and Clich

Both terms from printing that refer
to techniques that facilitate the
speed and lower the cost of
production through the use of
set images or phrases.

Comics and Stereotype

“…the stereotype is a fact of life in
the comics medium. It is an
accursed necessity

a tool of
communication that is an
inescapable ingredient in most

Will Eisner



“In comics, stereotypes are drawn
from commonly accepted physical
characteristics associated with an
occupation. These become icons
and are used as part of the
language in graphic storytelling. In
film, there is plenty of time to
develop a character…In comics
there is little time or space. The
image or caricature must settle the
matter instantly.”


Good and Bad Stereotypes

For Eisner the question is not
whether one should use
stereotypes but rather how to
distinguish between “good” and
“bad” stereotypes.


Are not metonymies like most icons but
are representations of idealized
character types that are not based on
observation, but on previous
representations, which themselves
were often based on previous
representations. These chains of
representation are often not refreshed
with new observation. Over time
these stereotypes tend to become
widely accepted standards of

American Images
in the Comics: A Case

Frederick Str
mberg in his book

Images in the Comics

provides numerous examples that
illustrate how stereotype is actually
used in the comics.

Stereotypical Images

None of these stereotypes tell us
anything about black people.

These stereotypes tell us a lot
about white people.

Stereotypical representations are not
really present in a narrative to
enhance the readability of the
narrative or to develop the characters;
they are usually present to reassure the
reader of the safety of their opinions
and prejudices, whether this is known
by the author or not.

Alternative Strategies of


forming a representation
based on actual observation,
representation that reflect individuality
instead of stereotypicality.

Iconic metonymy

reducing the
information from an observed
representation into a caricature.

Retaining the same level of caricature
through all the representations in the


Iconic Caricature

Retaining the Same Level of

Some Other Considerations

The position of the creator in
relation to the representations.

The centrality or marginality of
the character in relation to the

Active vs. Passive qualities in the
character represented.

Biases reflected in the visual
composition and character
poses within the images.

Using Other Representation Conventions

Funny Animal Conventions

Superhero Conventions

Manga/Animé Conventions

Virtual Reality Implications

As narrative evolves into various
modes of interactivity and virtual
reality, will schemes of
representation discard stereotype?

Image and Objectification

Are our fantasies
focused more on
individuals or on

The more
stereotypical the
objects of our
fantasies are
represented, the
more easily we
can objectify

Stereotype and Intimacy

Intimacy requires
specificity and
individuality. One
cannot be intimate
with a stereotype.

More virtual
interactivity seems
to require more
individuality of
representation. The
more individuality,
the more potential
for intimacy.

Stereotypes abet Violence

Violence is easiest to perpetrate on

Until recently, representation in
interactive gaming was capable of
little individualization, so there was
a natural dependence on
representation that used stereotype
or simple iconic forms of character
design. As the range of possible
representations widen, will gaming,
and its virtual reality successors
continue to depend on

Can the writers of the next generation
of virtual realities learn from the
history of the comics. It is not just a
question of “good” stereotypes
versus “bad” stereotypes. The use
of stereotypes is corrupting in itself.
One of the features of this
corruption is how the use of
stereotypes teaches the audience
to read the narrative of their own
reality in stereotypical terms.

The case history of Black Images in
the Comics shows how the use of
stereotypes has compromised the
work of the most important and
valued artists in the form. What may
be betrayed is the compact
between artist and audience that
any reality the artist presents has
been observed, observed no
matter how interior, absurd, or
personally scewed.

Ethics, effectiveness, reputation and
empathy are all compromised when
artists resort to stereotypes. Audience is
narrowed and distanced. Any sense of
fairness or equality within the narrative is
disturbed. The promise of virtual reality is
to enable the transfer of dreams. Will we
all be able to place ourselves fairly
within those dreams? Will the
dreamspace of virtual reality be a place
of empathy or one of violent unconcern?
Choices in representation will shape that

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