Racism in American Popular Media: From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito: From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito

Front Cover
ABC-CLIO, Mar 24, 2015 - Social Science - 146 pages

Were there damaging racist depictions in Gone with the Wind and children's cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and Mickey Mouse? How did widely known stereotypes of the Latin lover, the lazy Latino, the noble savage and the violent warrior American Indian, and the Asian as either a martial artist or immoral and tricky come about? This book utilizes an ethnic and racial comparative approach to examine the racism evidenced in multiple forms of popular media, enabling readers to apply their critical thinking skills to compare and analyze stereotypes, grasp the often-subtle sources of racism in the everyday world around us, and understand how racism in the media was used to unite white Americans and exclude ethnic people from the body politic of the United States.

Authors Brian D. Behnken and Gregory D. Smithers examine the popular media from the late 19th century through the 20th century to the early 21st century. This broad coverage enables readers to see how depictions of people of color, such as Aunt Jemima, have been consistently stereotyped back to the 1880s and to grasp how those depictions have changed over time. The book's chapters explore racism in the popular fiction, advertising, motion pictures, and cartoons of the United States, and examine the multiple groups affected by this racism, including African Americans, Latino/as, Asian Americans, and American Indians. Attention is also paid to the efforts of minorities—particularly civil rights activists—in challenging and combating racism in the popular media.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I think Tom and Jerry shows the importance of skin color in the superiority of power in such a way that Jerry is colored like a fawn cat (in the real world), but Tom is a blue mouse-colored cat, and this helps the mouse to defeat the cat despite being small

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is an excellent synopsis that touches on racism affecting multiple races from as far back as the colonies through modern media. It uses a combination of specific examples to form a picture of the interplay between racism portrayed in media and racism in popular culture, as each one impacted the other. Very well done, highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand American racial dynamics as influenced by popular media throughout American history. Anyone creating media in America with nonwhite characters that are not of their own race should read this book first. 


1 Writing Race
2 Marketing Discrimination
3 Screening Intolerance
4 Animating Racism
5 Conclusion
About the Authors

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2015)

Brian D. Behnken is associate professor in the Department of History and the U.S. Latino/a Studies Program at Iowa State University.

Gregory D. Smithers is associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Bibliographic information