The 2001 Essay Contest Winners:
1st and 2nd Place

High School Division

Second Place

Laura Amodeo
Grade 12
Newtown High School
Newtown, Connecticut

American society is one that revolves around stereotypes. We use stereotypes to entertain, to insult, and to identify. There are however, mixed opinions regarding the righteousness of their use. When is it that we as a community should draw the line and take action against the use of these stereotypes? It has become clear to me, being a student at a predominantly white, public high school, that these stereotypes teach insolence and disrespect. Ideas such that homosexuals behave in certain, feminine ways, or that overweight people cannot be athletic are fuel for jokes and disparagement. The varieties of stereotypes portrayed on television do little but teach our society that minorities are different and thus do not deserve respect.

An example of a television sitcom, which feeds off of stereotypes and thus mocks an entire minority population, is Will and Grace. The half hour long comedy, which airs on Thursday nights on NBC, is nothing but a lampoon of homosexuality. In the episode which aired on September 27, 2001, Will and Jack, two characters on the show who identify as homosexual are portrayed wearing women's clothing and going clearance shopping. Characters Nate and Grace mock Will for wearing tight jeans. Jack is seen becoming extremely excited at the thought of going to an annual department store clearance sale. These examples are portrayed in a comedic fashion.

There is nothing wrong with witty entertainment. However, when it goes as far as to teach that degrading mockery is acceptable, its public display should be reconsidered.

Read the High School Honorable Mention Essay

Middle School Division

First Place (tie)

Michael Chin
Grade 8
Dodd Middle School
Cheshire, Connecticut

"Wow look how fat that guy is!" Does this sound like something you would hear on a television program? Many shows and movies make fun of different groups. For an example, a movie I watched this weekend is called Joe Dirt. In the movie they made fun of Joe Dirt because he was poor and the way he looked. This could be an example of someone who watches a show that has prejudice jokes in it and would then make fun of people who have differences. We should not let this happen. I think that jokes about different groups should be eliminated from movies and television shows.

The reason I think prejudice jokes should be eliminated is because many people watch and then think it is OK to make fun of different people. The groups or people who get made fun of on these jokes may feel offended. For an example, in Joe Dirt when he was interviewed on the radio, the host made fun of him by saying he lives in a garbage can because of the way he looked. Kids watching the movie may think it's important that your well clothed but this is not true. What matters is what kind of person you are on the inside, not what you wear or where you live.

I think movies and television shows encourage prejudice from the jokes they make. I have seen kids make fun of people from jokes they saw on TV. I think parents should monitor smaller children on what they are watching on television because this can affect a child's future. Parents should talk to older children about how it is not acceptable to copy or believe the prejudice and stereotypes shown on television and movies. So, in conclusion, I believe that prejudice jokes on television and movies are not acceptable and should be eliminated.

First Place (tie)

Tim O'Brien
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School
Vernon, Connecticut

In this world people should all get along, but some people think different. People are making jokes about people's race, beliefs, and size. Television shows are constantly encouraging this kind of humor, and it should be stopped. Television shows such as Seinfeld have these kind of jokes on it. Some examples are that Jerry (main character) thinks that a Priest became a Jewish Rabbi just because he liked Jewish jokes better. Or the time Elaine dumped a guy because she didn't like the way he talked. George and Jerry are always dumping girls because they are too blonde, too tall or even too thin. That is not very nice, and people should not be judged by the way they look.

The Simpsons is another example of a TV show with prejudice with jokes on it. A lot of the Simpsons jokes are concentrated on prejudice. They are always making fun of Homer because he is overweight, or Ralph Wigom because he is dumb. That is rude and insensitive. They also make fun of Grampa because he is old, and Barney because he is a drunk. Even though they are only characters on a television show you still feel bad for them.

Shows like these encourage prejudice jokes all the time. They encourage blonde jokes, Polish jokes and fat jokes, and this should be stopped. Trust me I love jokes but when it comes to making fun of someone about the way they look, their race, or their beliefs it is no laughing matter.

Read the Middle School Honorable Mention Essays