Stereotypes & Storytellers
Stereotypes can be a problem for the storyteller. While they make it easier and quicker to write or tell a story, they come with a cost — truth tends to suffer a hit.
Even when we are telling a story that is totally made up, most storytellers try to convey some level of truth. How does a stereotype interfere with that process?
Suppose you want to tell a story that involves politicians. In today’s world there are some stereotypes in the major media outlets that would make you think Democrats are the party of the young and ethnically diverse. Republicans, on the other hand, are the party of rich, white men beholden to businesses run by more rich, white men.
But if we were to look at the current presidential race we would see the following:
DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
- Hillary Clinton, 67 year old white female (would be first female president, if elected)
- Sen. Bernie Sanders, 74 year old white male
- Vice-President Joe Biden, 72 year old white male (he hasn’t officially announced at the time of this writing)
REPUBLICAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
- Donald Trump, 69 year old while male
- Carly Fiorina, 61 year old white female (would be first female president, if elected)
- Dr. Ben Carson, 64 year old black male (would be second black president, if elected)
- Gov. Bobby Jindal, 44 year old Indian-American (would be first Indian-American president, if elected)
- Sen. Marco Rubio, 44 year old Hispanic male (would be first Hispanic president, if elected)
- Sen. Ted Cruz, 44 year old Hispanic male (would be first Hispanic president, if elected)
- and a whole bunch of others
I’m not making a pitch for either party here but it is interesting to note that the candidates for the party of the “young and ethnically diverse” are lily white and very old, while the candidates for the party of the “rich, white males” are young and quite diverse.
If you were the storyteller would the politicians in your story be made to fit into the stereotype or would they reflect reality?
Well, if you were trying to sell a script to a Hollywood studio, you might want to go with the stereotype politician. It would be an easier sell.
But you would be missing so much if you did that.
Take the time to learn about real people. Especially people you have placed in some box (another word for a stereotype). Getting beyond stereotypes will make your stories so much richer and more truthful.
As a side benefit, if you get to know people your life will be richer.
RESOURCE FOR THIS POINT
“How old would President ___ be?“
Ages of Declared and Potential 2016 Presidential Candidates on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017