Our Viewing Templates: Stereotyping

What are the things that come to your mind when you think of Italy? Is it Pasta? Pizza? The stunning and varied countryside? Or cities of art?

Apparently, “What Country” app from the iTunes store describes Italy as the home of pizza, scooters, and the Mafia, the last of which is illustrated with an image of a “Mafia parking only” sign. This Mafia reference has upset Italy’s Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla , who says that the references are insulting to the dignity of Italians. Thus, Ms Brambilla has demanded that Apple remove its iPhone and iPad application, “What Country” from its online store because it uses negative stereotypes to describe Italy.

Perhaps some may think that Ms Brambilla is being a little too uptight. After all, “What Country” didn’t mean to smear Italy’s name and hopes users will “explore and discover funny, strange and exciting peculiarities of various countries around the world” through such phrases and photos. But I could understand Ms Brambilla’s action.

Media can be a powerful tool in creating or reinforcing stereotypes; it can affect the way society views them and change society’s expectations of them. Media influence is dependent on the direct experiences the public has with the issue addressed by the media. Media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are extremely successful in telling us what to think about it. With enough exposure to a stereotype, society may come to view it as a reality rather than as a chosen representation. Also, the image of a “Mafia parking only” sign accompanying the issue play a huge part in altering people’s standards of perception; whereas there is a saying that “a picture speaks a thousand words” proves the effectiveness of the image to a certain extent. In this case, it may lead to some having prejudices toward the Italians.

Such negative stereotypes not only affect how society view them, it also influence how people perceive themselves. The feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t respect or understand you does little to encourage a positive sense of self-worth. Hence, we should never understate the seriousness of stereotyping.

However, not all stereotyping are negative. By using stereotypes, it allows us to draw conclusion faster; whereby a complex issue could reduce to a simple understandable issue. Stereotypes are our viewing templates by which we make sense of the world around us, regardless of context and accuracy. Thus, we must be mindful about the way we stereotype things.

Read more of the news: http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy/arts-and-culture/tourism-minister-demands-removal-iphone-app


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Fen
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 15:16:19

    Good and light-hearted example of the classic sterotype of Italy! 🙂 Sterotyping is like breathing. People will sterotype, whether they themselves like it or not or whether they themselves try to control not to sterotype or not.

    I really feel that sterotyping is bad. Sterotyping inhibits our initiative to form closer bonds with someone. Our brain loves to take short-cuts, but why must we allow our brain to take this form of short-cut? We might attribute the reasons for that person’s actions is due to the perecived value that has pre-existed even before we get to know the person better. This does not do justice to the person. We may never take the effort to fully understand his or her circumstances or the events that are happeining that cause him or her to act this way. It inhibits our rational thinking.


  2. tanyouyi
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 03:34:52

    Thanks fen! Its true that sterotyping inhibits our rational thinking. But only to a certain extent. I do not really believe that sterotyping is totally a bad thing, just that all we need is to be cautious of the way we sterotype. Plus, what’s wrong with taking a short cut? If we had to learn and perceive everything from scratch, wouldn’t it be tiring? Each time we meet someone new, we had to create a new schema to fit that particular person. Imagine how many schemata would there be if we meet someone new everyday? Hence, sterotyping is an efficient way for us to mentally organize huge amount of information as it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Alas, many of us are not wary of how we sterotype and tend to jump straight right into conclusion.


  3. retsarepus
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 09:09:25

    Interesting write there Youyi 😀 in the case of the Italian minister, I do believe she’s a little too uptight and uncompromising, after all, they were the home of the Mafia, just like how Japan’s the home of the Yakuza. Her dismissal of the app has been rather unapt (haha..), doing so has led me to stereotype Italians as anti-fun mobsters who are too serious about themselves! I think if there’s some truth in it they should let it be… kinda reminds me off how Singapore was portrayed in the 3rd installment of the pirates of the Caribbean movie. We were made out to be a some pirate port but we were cool enough to let that slide (:


  4. Melissa
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 10:53:04

    Interesting article you mentioned there! 😀 I think it’s all in the name of fun. I mean, everyone knows the Mafia are from Italy, the Yakuza are from Japan and the KGB are from Russia. Every nation pretty much has their own dirty laundry. Sure, stereotyping is bad and we’re doing the countries involved a disservice but I think that in such a context, we should let it slide. It’s an app, not a bill that has been signed into law. I think Ms. Brambilla is over-reacting. I’m sure the majority of Italians can take a joke or two, or should MTV cancel Jersey Shore since it portrays Italian-Americans in a bad light as well?


  5. huiyingk
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 05:55:46

    Whoa, didn’t know about this piece of news! Thanks for sharing..

    Well definitely it is understandable why the Italian Minister for Tourism was demanding a removal of the iPhone app.. especially when we know how powerful it can be in reaching out to people!

    Stereotypes may not be negative all the time in the sense that we are able to draw conclusions faster. But that being said, it is still necessary to be careful because when generalizations are drawn there is a form of bias embedded in it. For example, people always label foreign workers here as ‘banglahs’ generally. As much as many of them come from Bangladesh, we don’t have to mention it in our speech! There are workers from all countries coming to Singapore. I personally do not favour people going ‘oh, just get that banglah to do it’. Goes a lot to show about our mannerism.


  6. huiyingk
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 06:00:38

    I do agree that the current Asian culture may not permit (morally) such advertisements to be published in Singapore. However, like you mentioned, since lingerie advertisements are so prevalent now and the current ‘culture’ of today’s society spans along many issues on moral values, perhaps the people who are really rejecting this advertisement will be the older generation. The younger generation will most probably perceive it as a norm already. And in any case, it is just an ad. It is once again up to the individual to judge what is right or wrong in their own terms.

    I wouldn’t say that this ad is lewd, but it does not portray the message of the advertiser A&F. Are they saying less is more? If it is a fashion label, they probably should work on another depicition.


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