Stereotypical Jokes and Caricatures

Stereotypes and prejudice can generate hatred in apparently innocuous forms: jokes, cartoons and caricatures. Are blondes really more scatterbrained than brunettes? Are there more stupid people among “Newfies” (Newfoundlanders) than among other Canadians? Of course not! These are stereotypes that denigrate a group to get a laugh at their expense. Many stereotypes, ethnic, religious and sexual, are harmful and even dangerous. Recognizing them is the first step towards eliminating them.

By exaggerating the physical characteristics of certain minorities (hawk nose, long teeth, full lips, curly hair, almond-shaped eyes, traditional clothing), caricatures are intended to get a laugh but also to make the targeted group seem ugly, ridiculous, stupid and even contemptuous. In this kind of pejorative representation, it is not uncommon for the caricatured subjects to be assigned stereotyped cultural or ethnic behaviours such as thievery, laziness, rudeness, infidelity, alcoholism or machismo. The consequences can be devastating.

Criticizing cartoons that unfairly demean entire groups of people is to discourage exclusion and covert racism by exercising a legitimate form of censorship.