Last weekend my partner and I went to the cinema to watch Zombieland 2: Double Tap. The original came out in 2009 and I loved it, the sequel which was released ten years later was good, with just one exception. Her name is Madison.
Picture it with me now: a white girl, blonde hair (somehow perfectly curled and styled in the middle of a zombie apocalypse), she has perfectly straight teeth, her face made up prettily and she wears a bunch of super cute pink outfits. Being a very feminine blonde myself, I was hoping for a story arc that featured Madison as a badass zombie killer, but do you know what I got instead? A typical dumb blonde stereotype.
She has some cliché blonde moments like forgetting to wear her seatbelt, eating nuts when she knows she’s anaphylactic, hiding in a freezer (which is how she survived Zombieland thus far) and just being an overall ditzy character that the others roll their eyes at. I was very disappointed at the alarming conservative streak this movie. In 2019 I hadn’t expected to see such as strongly regressive female protagonist.
I thought my days of hearing dumb blonde jokes and seeing dumb blondes in pop culture were over when my personal hero, Elle Woods, got into Harvard (what like it’s hard?), graduated with Honours and won a place at one of Boston’s most prestigious law firms in 2004, but apparently some people didn’t get that memo.
Madison’s character calls into question why in 2019 movies still resort to the good ol’ dumb blonde character as an easy laugh tactic. Should we be finding this trope humorous?
Research suggests that ‘blondeness’ is associated directly with femininity. This can be seen in the word itself; the Western world generally spells ‘blonde’ with an e, which in French is the female use of the word. Conversely, ‘blond’ is masculine. Due to blondeness being associated with femininity as a social construct in a patriarchal society this brings into the conversation the structural gender inequality in society. It’s evident that cinematic productions are catered to the male gaze.
There have been studies that show the dumb blonde generalisation is indeed nothing but a stereotype. One study involving more than 10 000 people in America ran IQ score tests on participants and found that natural blondes had an average IQ of 103.2 which was within 3 IQ points of other cohorts.
Science has proven time and time again that blondes aren’t dumb and yet we still cater to this stereotype to please male viewers who view woman and femininity as less than ‘maleness’. Male dominance is common in traditionally ‘higher-ranking’ areas of employment. There are many male directors, producers, casting agents and writers who all help mould and shape the way a production turns out. It’s no wonder that the dumb blonde stereotype still exists in movies today when we still do not have equality between genders in jobs that design what we view on TV screens.
It’s not just male dominance in the entertainment industries hierarchy that causes this – we still have the issue of why audiences laugh at dumb blonde jokes and characters. Well, there is research that shows the dumb blonde stereotype is so deeply entrenched in society that people actually hold a bias towards blondes; they laugh because the cinematic humour reflects their genuine beliefs about society.
The lead researcher, Dr Cassidy, sums up the findings as:
“we have found that the dumb blonde stereotype is alive and well and is particularly extreme in men.”
This highlights how problematic the dumb blonde stereotype is even when used in a ‘humorous’ context (and I mean that in the loosest term of humour possible); it has the potential to cause damage to blondes’ lives IRL.
The dumb blonde rhetoric needs to come to an end because it’s been proven to actually affect employment practices IRL. Yes, this stereotype is stopping perfectly smart and capable blondes from being gainfully employed. This bias also extends to promotional decisions: blondes are statistically less likely to be promoted than their counterparts which is truly terrible. We are carrying these biases inside us because of the saturation of dumb blondes in pop culture. It’s having a profound effect on a societal level without a lot of people realising it.
It’s 2019, the world is probably going to end soon because of climate change, can we just STOP with the dumb blonde stereotype and make the world a slightly better place before doomsday comes knocking?