1. There were five distinct cultural groups represented during the commercials: Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Indians (from India).
2. Caucasians appeared in close to 90% of the commercials, followed at a distant second by African-Americans. This is because Caucasians are considered the mainstream; they appear in most starring roles on network television while African-Americans most often have supporting roles. Shows that are primarily cast with African-Americans usually appear on the less popular networks because they do not have the potential to gain ratings and generate advertising dollars.
3. The commercials featured fewer Hispanics, Asians, Indians and other cultures. This is most likely because they do not represent what is considered to be the norm in society; advertisers try to appeal to those who are most likely to purchase their products, and they have decided that these groups do not generate enough sales. In addition, there were no commercials in which gay or lesbian couples or families were featured. This is because advertisers are afraid of scaring off customers whose beliefs prohibit such a lifestyle as the norm.
4. Caucasians were featured in many roles; they were the consumer, the spokesperson and the employees. African-Americans were often featured in groups of friends or family. They were rarely shown in groups with other races, though they were shown in a variety of roles. The fact that the African-Americans were not shown participating in any type of cultural activity suggests the first stage of minority identity development, the unexamined identity. Rather than showing African-Americans celebrating their heritage, the commercials forced the viewer to be color-blind. They did nothing that the Caucasians would not do. Hispanics were few, but were usually featured in a family setting. Caucasians had the most variety of roles and by far the more glamorous appearances. There were no non-Caucasians in sports cars, expensive clothing or purchasing high-end products.
5. Women were often depicted as homemakers, concerned about the choices of food, cleaning products and dollar value for their families. While they were often shown on the job, it was usually in relation to balancing work and family and how the featured product made such a transition easier for her. This was an example of how identities are dynamic; even though the women were usually wives and mothers, they still held jobs and socialized with friends without their husbands present. There were African-Americans shown as athletes but rarely as students or executives. The Asian roles were the most stereotypical; these families were featured as tight, two-parent family units, and the parents showed concern over how their traditional values might allow room for a modern convenience (such as an Asian-inspired, easy-to-prepare dish). Senior citizens spent a great deal of time in porch swings and doting on grandchildren. Age identity is often related to our attitude about ages – other than children, the seniors in the commercials were the only participants to mention their ages. The older men played golf while the women often had a knitting project nearby. Finally, girls played with feminine toys while boys played sports. The activities engaged in by the seniors and the children are an example of gender identity. Gender identity tells us what it means to be a male or a female, and the commercials kept to a very strict stereotype.
6. The first stereotype that was reinforced in the commercials is that we live in a world dominated by Caucasians, and that one might never see a person of another race at the grocery store, a restaurant or at the gas station. Next, young people were students rather than workers, women were primarily concerned about their husbands and children, and men were often shown in positions of power. There wasn’t a single commercial in which a man was subordinate to a female supervisor. In addition, there was an absence of class identity. High-end products were featured as being attainable by anyone, regardless of income. A commercial for BMW suggested that if the viewer thought this car was too expensive, they should think again. The language used by the participants in the commercials lacked diversity. African-Americans did not speak in slang; in fact, they enunciated every word distinctly. This suggests the mobility myth, which implies that anyone can get where they want to go through hard work and perseverance.
7. The media has the power to influence how we think about different cultures and the acceptable roles in society. Fifty years ago, it would have been unheard of for a woman to be watching television while her husband was making dinner and agonizing over the best choice of vegetable for the family. Today, men are often depicted cooking – however, it is often subtly suggested that he is a hero for taking on the role so his wife can work late or take a night off. The media still enforces traditional gender roles. In addition, advertisers appear to be afraid to take chances and show different groups as they really are. Instead, everyone is shown to be exactly the same. They speak with the same accents, wear the same type of clothing and are interested in the same products.
8. The section on class identity forced me to think about the ways in which people of different income levels live and survive. The differences in language usage often divide the classes, but no such language diversity was shown in the commercials. The chapter suggested that Americans typically like to refer to themselves as middle class, and this theory was proven in the commercials. Everyone was middle class and everyone enjoyed the same quality of life regardless of age, race or gender.