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Dress and stereotypes

We look at dress codes to understand different cultures, social status and the notion of stereotypes.
Close up from the film Sazlontudo of two men shaking hands
© Gyorgy Palos

Dress is one of the signals, or codes, that filmmakers and other visual artists use to communicate ideas about people, or groups of people and the cultures that they come from. The dress codes in Szalontudo are set out to distinguish men from different social groups: the homeless man in his shabby jacket and shoes; the businessman, in his shirt and tie; the musician, with his jaunty hat.

These dress codes are one of a number of ‘cultural codes’ that are used in media forms to characterise different social groups and ‘types’. In this step we would like you to think about the ways in which people from particular social backgrounds are presented as ‘types’ – or even as ‘stereotypes’, that is, crude characterisations that tend to over-simplify more complex or subtle realities. The relation of stereotypes to learning about other languages and cultures should be clear – one of the reasons we teach languages is to enable learners to move beyond crude characterisations of people and culture, and develop a more subtle, informed and complex understanding of the world beyond their immediate experience.


The activity for this step is to take or find two images that represent a film character that you are familiar with. One image should show a cultural stereotype represented in a film character; the other should be a more ‘realistic’ representation of the same film charatcer. Attach both images to padlet with a short explanation, or describe the characters in the comment section.

Teaching Idea

In the downloads section there are also two resources based around the theme of stereotyping for you to adapt and use in class in English or in your target language. In the first activity you are asked to match the job role or label to the image. The answers are on the answer sheet also attached in the downloads section. Would these resources be useful in your classroom? If so, why, and how?

The aim of the activity above is not to upset or condemn any group of people, but rather to challenge representations and stereotypes as often seen in film, media and elsewhere. Please see FutureLearn’s Code of Conduct particularly the section where it states, ‘You are respectful of others, and do not use words or share content that is offensive or inflammatory’.

Extension Activity

There is also an optional Challenging Stereotypes – Filmmaking Extension Activity resource on stereotyping to do with your class if you are feeling confident with technology. Please share your film if you decide to take part in this extension activity; below you’ll see instructions on how to do this.

How to share your film

Once you’ve made your film, upload it to YouTube. If you have a Gmail address, you will already have a YouTube account. If not, it’s quick and easy to set one up.

If you’re unsure about how to add your film to YouTube simply follow FutureLearn’s instructions.

Once you’ve created your account on YouTube, upload your video and copy its URL and add to the comments section to share with your peers. Don’t forget to turn off the comments on your YouTube videos, and it’s a good idea to make the link ‘unlisted’, rather than public, to restrict viewers to other learners on this course.

Please do not add video content of young people without written parental permission or video content of adults without their consent.

© British Film Institute
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Short Film in Language Teaching

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