My Own Take on the Current Stereotypes in Hollywood Blockbusters

There have always been stereotypes used in the storytelling in movies. After all, movies have a limited amount of time to tell the story, and the use of stereotypes is a great time saver, particularly in movies that focus on the action rather than characterization. I’ve noticed two new stereotypes that seem to be popping up a lot in American movies and television shows.

The Brit is the Bad Guy

I find a British accent sexy (my husband has a faint British accent from being schooled in British schools in Hong King). Apparently, this is not the case in America, who seem to think every villain should be British. I blame Alan Rickman, who plays a villain with real relish, such as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Severus Snape (actually a stealth hero) in the Harry Potter film series.You just can’t top Alan Rickman’s snark. So, it seems to be that if you want an actor to play a memorable villain or bad guy, pick a Brit.

Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman

This morning, my husband re-watched San Andreas, and Ioan Gruffudd played the bad guy, more of a coward and a slimebag rather than a truly evil villain. Jeremy Irons was cast as Simon in Die Hard with a Vengeance, playing Hans Gruber’s brother, and does no one else wonder why Scar from The Lion King had a British accent when no one else in his pride did? (Or am I the only one?) Tom Hiddleston plays Loki in the Marvel films. Seriously, I could go on and on and on.

The New Boyfriend is Expendable

I find the concept of a Disposable Boyfriend popping up more and more in movies and television. I blame the Titanic. The Expendable New Boyfriend is a subtrope of that trope. This seems to be a real disaster movie trope, though they did nearly kill off the boyfriend in Mrs Doubtfire. In the disaster flick, 2012, the blameless new boyfriend is killed off to allow the ex-husband reunite with his wife and family. As previously mentioned, San Andreas has the new boyfriend turning chicken, while the Ex saves the day and wins back his lady fair. Even back in 1996, Independence Day, had ex-spouses reuniting once the world had been saved. One can’t help wonder why these loving couples broke up in the first place, when they can’t wait to fall back into each other’s arms (except in Mrs Doubtfire).

Ioan Gruffudd in ‘San Andreas’

Seriously, there is nothing that could happen that would ever get me to reunite with my ex-husband. We broke up for very good reasons. As well, I love my second husband with all my heart, and I would be devastated if he were killed in some disaster. Either the writers of these films think American women have very fickle hearts, or American marriages break up way to easily. I don’t believe either of these are true. In fact, I think it says some very interesting things about the writers of these story lines; they don’t have any real experience of real relationships or real American women, or they are lazy storytellers. (I’m guessing it may be a little of both.)

Do you have any current tropes you would like to add?

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7 Comments

Filed under Characterization, Personal experience, Pop Culture, Stereotypes, Writing Style

7 responses to “My Own Take on the Current Stereotypes in Hollywood Blockbusters

  1. Is it more about assuaging the American culture’s messy sense of morality? – That certain archetypes (let’s not call them ‘people’) *deserve* to die, either by finally being killed by the hero (directly or ‘by accident’), or killed/sent away/magicked away by the the evil aliens/robot/zombies that the villain has been scheming with. Or he is simply hoisted by his own petard. – Always neat and tidy, and ever-popular.

    Movies have to satisfy that All-American Muddled Morality, which in America is ALWAYS build on the good old Victim Triangle. Good guys are never murderers, and are ALWAYS justified (American love the concept of ‘Justice’. Gun-massacre nutbags often declare their actions to be ‘justice’).

    As to matters of relationships; someone is ALWAYS cast as a villain, another as the victim, and the third as some kind of rescuer. Kill the villain and Love is restored! So easy! As you say, it’s all built on cosy familiar stereotypes and tropes so that an audience is not stressed by actually having to adjust their moral parameters. Studios and networks spend zillions on these mega-blockbusters and they don’t want to risk their investment by challenging the masses with moral ambiguity. Think ‘Firefly’.

    Is it easing, or maybe it just keeps sliding? We can’t shoot masses of ‘gooks’ anymore, or ‘commies’, or ‘towelheads’.

    “What’s left? Ah – The new boyfriend! – And we get to restore ‘family values’ too. Perfect! Send the writers home right now, & here’s $145 million to spend on car chases, VFX and explosions. Bring on the zombie clowns!”

  2. Strong female characters? Hate them.

    That got your attention 🙂 perhaps I should have written “strong” female characters.

    It is a truism in Hollywood that hero characters should be able to mould to any actor. Male leads might become female leads depending on who they can get to play the part. (Contrary to popular myth, Ripley in Alien was not written as a male character – it was written as a gender-not-specified character.)

    Back to the point: I dislike “strong female characters” because nine times out of ten they are not women, they are men with boobs. (Much as I love Joss, he had his hands tied with the Avengers property and Black Widow is not his best female character by a long way.)

    I want “female characters with agency”, which is why I write them.

    Yes, I have a post-Buffy kick-ass TV character called Chloe Dark (the coming-of-age tale of a girl who’s turning into a monster – literally). But I got over that and wrote an Edwardian xeno-botanist who wins the day against impossible odds with her knowledge of alien plants. (And lots of others.)

    Strong female characters? No.
    Female characters with agency? Yes.

    (The stuff you guys mentioned? Yup, crap. And what about the appalling “Taken”? With the truly f*ed up morality of “I’m going to rescue my daughter, but all these other girls? They can stay sex slaves.”)

    • Was is even more appalling is the they made two more movies based on ‘Taken’.
      I have to completely agree with your assessment of ‘strong women’ characters. My example would be Claire from ‘Jurassic World’. Would went from ‘strong and unfeeling’ BUSINESS WOMAN (because you can only have a career by aping masculine behaviour) to a DISTRESSED DAMSEL in need of the comfort of a big, strong man. Talk about a lack of agency…

  3. karen j carlisle

    Reblogged this on Karen J Carlisle.

  4. Pingback: My Own Take on the Current Stereotypes in Hollywood Blockbusters | Cogpunk Steamscribe

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