Friday 1 May 2015

Outdated Stereotypes


A recent cartoon represented England by a top hat and a monocle – a combination no-one has worn for 100 years. And nobody has seen a top hat for so long that the cartoonist didn’t even know how to draw one.

In cartoons, burglars wear stripy jerseys plus eyemasks, Frenchman accessorise their stripy jerseys with berets, Germans sport lederhosen, Mexican don sombreros, perverts lurk in dirty macs, nuns are draped in medieval habits (mostly junked in the 60s). The Daily Mail (October 2014) has a cyber criminal at a keyboard wearing a ski hat and mask. Google “cybercrime stock photo” and you’ll get a lot of laptop users wearing balaclavas. (And whatever you’re up to, an eye mask is not going to disguise your features.)

Artists wear floppy black velvet berets like Rembrandt (who wore one because it was the fashion, and to keep his head warm). Giles’s granny clung to her huge black coat, fox fur, hat with violets and a stuffed bird, untidy umbrella and heavy handbag. It looked fine in 1910, why not in 1960?

Cartoons of mobiles and modernistic sculpture (swirly things on plinths in the central piazza of a New Town) were pretty faithful.

Psychiatrists, some with Freudian beards but all identifiable by the framed degree certificates on the wall, listen to clients lying on couches – shrinks and clients sit in chairs facing each other these days, and have done for years.

In September 2014, an FT cartoon showed a journalist sitting at a laptop – wearing a trilby. Journalists (and detectives, and plain-clothes policemen) wore trilbies and raincoats when it was outdoor costume for most men. But that was 50 years ago.

Lefties were depicted as Aldermaston marchers long after they'd become hippies or 80s neohippies. The images were taken faithfully from news photos of the early 60s - women with heavy glasses, duffel coat, stripy college scarf, tweed skirt, sheepskin boots, long straight hair and fringes, a baby in a pushchair.

A picture worth 163 words
SIR - Given your newspaper’s determination to accompany any article on social or political affairs in eastern Europe with a photograph of the apparently ubiquitous old lady with a shawl wrapped over her head, I was delighted to find that your recent piece on the gas crisis in the region ("Gasping for gas", January 17th) carried a picture representative of another important demographic group: the dentally challenged villager. My excitement was short-lived, however, as just a week later it was back to the well-wrapped old lady ("To the barricades", January 24th). One gets the impression from your coverage of elections that every polling station east of the Danube is populated solely by such characters.  To avoid creating any misleading stereotypes, may I suggest that you widen your range of imagery to better represent east Europeans. Roma using horse-drawn carts on main roads, elderly veterans in Soviet-style uniforms and furry hats and vodka-soaked vagrants would broaden the picture.

Daniel Tilles Cracow, Poland (The Economist)

More photo clichés:

holding a pipe
clenching pipe between teeth
clenching pipe between teeth while fondling a dog and wearing a tweed jacket. (Male only, 30s-50s.)
leaning head on thumb and fingers

holding a bakelite phone handset to the ear while wearing bottomless glasses and looking stern (newspapers, 70s)
squatting – a bizarre trend from the 80s/90s. It gets in the whole person and the background but they look very undignified.
arms round shoulders, dancing the “cancan” – groups of friends ad nauseam

Every photo taken between 50s and 80s must contain at least one person with their hands on their hips. (@tickton69/Donna Webb)

jumping A level students (all pretty, female and with long blonde hair)

that watery Zen landscape of a jetty sticking out into a lake

And a mental health activist asks picture editors to stop illustrating every story about depression with a stock photo of a young woman in a strappy vest looking worried.

When socialists are not swigging champagne (the fiends!) they wear beards and sandals and munch lentils. (These days it’s Muslims and hipsters who grow beards, everyone wears sandals in the summer, and lentils are eaten by Indians, Pakistanis and pretty much everybody. The original high-minded sandal-wearers flourished well before the war – the First World War, that is.)

But some stock characters from fiction live on, when everybody thought they were long gone: like the middle-aged female spiritual seeker festooned with scarves and Egyptian scarabs. And nice middle-class ladies are still opening artistic teashops – except they’re cafés now.

More clichés here.

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