February 14, 2008

The Problem With Tolerance



Minority depictions in pop culture are often coupled with the idea of tolerance. Tolerance, in this respect, is preached from the dominant norm's gaze and projected onto the reception of the other.

It's important to realize that the preaching of tolerance is not a message of granting legitimacy but is an attitude meant to give the feeling of inclusion. After all, tolerance is always presented as a struggle between the dominant and the other. It's not a message of actual recognition but of a grudging acceptance.

With the thought of tolerance comes the idea of acceptable representation. The minority is granted "legitimizing" public time, but is held accountable under the normative gaze. In order to be tolerable, the minority character must censor their actions, ideas, and attitude in order to "fit in". This furthers the divide of "US versus THEM" as now we have a two-tiered system of other. There is the "acceptable" other and those that just won't assimilate. A form of legitimacy is granted to those who self-censor and deviancy for people who do not/cannot conform.

The increase of minority visibility hasn't actually changed stereotypes. In reality, racism, classism, chauvinism, and homophobia are still rampant. Creating the "US and THEM" ideology that tolerance mandates hasn't benefited minorities. It is only when fair representations and understanding that acceptance is key will we, as a society, see any change.

Tolerance doesn't accept this and that is why I do not tolerate tolerance.

3 comments:

Left Media said...

Hey Rob,

Looking forward to your blog. I highly recommend reading Stuart Hall's Policing the Crisis, particularly chapter three on "The Social Production of News." His videotaped lecture "Representation and the Media" is also available in the library.

Matt Brett

Joey said...

My only question is how much right does a member of a fringe society have to recognition over the status quo? Think target market/audience when viewing media

Robert Vitulano said...

A member of a fringe society has every right to offer a critique on the majority. Think of every movement from the past... They're composed of people who are trying to change the dominant thought.

You are right to question it, as obviously the targeted audience isn't directed at me. But when the dominant message hides its exclusionary practices behind the veil of tolerance, then I feel every right to address it.