Common stereotypes in American society.
Americans have been portrayed in many ways over the years. While some may be positive, most tend to be negative. Stereotypes of Americans can be found in almost every society around the world, from their next-door neighbors to people across the other side of the globe. In fact, American stereotypes have made their way into popular media and are often emphasized in a caricature of American life, sometimes by Americans themselves. Regardless of the region, we can agree that negative stereotypes of other peoples and cultures occur in almost every society – it is a normal and human thing to do.
These days, Americans are one of the most represented people in the entertainment industry and in online media, which can influence the opinions of many from other societies. What are some common stereotypes seen in American society?
The Racist American
The issue of “whites versus blacks” has been a prominent one in world history and is still a relevant debate today. Regardless of today’s Americans’ viewpoint on the matter, racism, racial segregation and racial classification was part of American history and the concept of race is still ingrained in American culture today. Race is particularly a sensitive topic when it comes to American politics and socioeconomic matters. As such, Americans may be stereotyped as white supremacists who look down on other races, especially in fictional stories set during the period of Civil Rights issues. These days, it is believed that many Americans still harbor some form of prejudice towards people of other races, even if racism today has taken on a more indirect form.
The Obese American
It remains a fact that 33.8 percent or one third of the American population is obese and more than 68 percent is overweight – a shockingly high statistic when compared to the rest of the developed world, where the United States comes out on top. This has led to one of the most popular stereotypes being that Americans are fat and eat mostly fast food. A common American meal may include microwaveable meals or snacks in most people’s opinion, probably partly because the United States does not have its own cuisine per se. Many American accommodations such as airplane seats are plus-sized, a well-known distinction compared to the passenger planes of other countries. Americans are commonly also stereotyped to have an inactive lifestyle which usually consists of residing indoors and watching television, further pointing to the “obese” profile.
The Gun-loving American
The United States is infamous for having one of the highest death rates caused by firearms among all the developed countries. Guns have been tightly intertwined into American history and even today, a large number of Americans own firearms – topping the world statistic at 88.8 guns per 100 residents. The stereotype of Americans and guns is also amplified by the attention the media gives to gun-related shootings and incidents in the United States, as well as the common portrayal of Americans wielding guns in Hollywood entertainment.
One disturbing fact is that although most people may attribute the high death rates caused by guns to mass shootings or murders, according to the Atlantic, most of the deaths caused by guns have actually been suicides in recent years. Despite that, shooting incidents are commonly reported in international media, leading the association of Americans and guns.
Furthermore, the mention of firearms can also incite strong feelings in some people, especially with regard to the Second Amendment and the right to own guns. Given that it is illegal to own firearms in most other countries, the United States has rightly earned its reputation for being the home of the gun-loving American.
The Materialistic American
A common generalization of Americans is that they love money and place high importance on economic value. America is also heavily focused on consumerism, which goes together with materialism. Hefty emphasis is placed on owning items and brands, which are drawn out by celebrities in the media and in popular songs. The difference in wealth and socioeconomic status can also be an underlying issue in American culture, leading to a mindset focused on material wealth and happiness based on owning the most things.
The Ignorant American
Americans are not known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer. They have long been associated with being ignorant of cultures other than their own, believed to never travel outside their home country and be unable to speak languages other than English. Furthermore, Americans are usually stereotyped as simply being unconcerned about the state of the rest of the world, thinking that their world revolves around the United States. With the Western side of the Internet dominated by the United States, more Americans may be inadvertently conveying their lack of knowledge about the rest of the world to the non-Americans they meet, leading to the stereotype of the ignorant American.
Apart from lacking travel experience, Americans are also often seen as “dumbed down” in many other generalizations, such as the “dumb blonde” stereotype. This could be attributed to the declining standards of the American education system. Surveys conducted in past years have also revealed that a surprisingly low number of Americans are well-informed on scientific topics, including 18 percent who still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth, and only 20 percent that know what stem cells are.
The Environmentally Unfriendly American
Americans are often stereotyped as lavish, driving high-polluting vehicles, and part of a consumer-based society, contributing to the carbon footprint of the world. These are not without fact. The United States has the second highest carbon dioxide emissions after China – with less than a fourth of China’s population. Additionally, many will remember the United States as one of the few countries which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It is also one of the three countries that refused to participate in the Paris Agreement after withdrawing from the agreement in June 2017.
The Generous American
While most stereotypes of other cultures tend to be negative in nature, there are rarely also positive ones. With the United States frequently sending aid and supplies to other countries in need, people may think that Americans are generous. Americans are also commonly seen as people who are charitable and willing to volunteer to help others. According to a 2010 study by the Charities Aid Foundation, Americans were the fifth most willing people in the world to donate their time and money at 55 percent. Additionally, the United States tops all countries with the highest amount of charitable contributions, most of which goes to religious organizations.
While some of these stereotypes may be more accurate than others, many of them have come about with good reason. Americans have also come to accept the world’s view of them, often self-identifying with one or more of the stereotypes. Although stereotypes can harm, they are also an important aspect of what sets one society apart from another.