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date: 29 September 2020


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell

A fixed, repeated characterization of a person or social group that draws on the real world whilst serving as a shortcut to meaning and expressing shared values and beliefs. In everyday usage of the term, stereotypes tend to be seen as simplistic and pejorative; but in fact they rely on complex knowledge about the social relations and behaviours to which they refer, and offer systems of meaning that enable people to make sense of, and derive pleasure from, stories, jokes, and other communications. Since stereotypes emerge from and inform social attitudes, they are subject to modification in light of wider social and political changes. In films, stereotyped characters typically present few traits, are immediately identifiable, and do not change or develop over the course of the narrative. At the same time, such characters serve an economic function in that the audience can be assumed, without the need for further elaboration, to know what different character types stand for and how they can be expected to behave. Performance styles and iconographies in early and silent cinema depended heavily on stereotyping (the seductive writhing of the ... ...

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