I guess it's all a matter of perspective. The New York Times has an article describing some people's reaction to the Black characters in the new Grand Theft Auto game. Critics claim that it promotes stereotypes. I was one of the first people to jump on the GTA bandwagon, way back when the first edition came out. I promptly got off when I got into a minor fender-bender in real life and the first thought in my head was to snatch the other guy out of his car and drive away. Since then, the game has made quantum leaps in terms of realism and plot twists. I stay away from it, though. I know how addictive that first edition with the birds-eye view was. I would be up here stealing and killing all night if I bought it. Grand Theft is problematic on several levels, but I'm not gonna get into all that right now. Suffice it to say that there's a good discussion to be had on the degree to which "entertainment" like that is healthy. I know, because I can argue both parts. I can also argue both sides on the stereotyping issue. It's dicey. On the one hand, it's undeniable that certain stereotypes have been propagated in order to justify the subjugation of Black people in this country. Entertainment is rife with portrayals of Black folks that have been used to justify racist thoughts and actions. There's just no getting around that fact. However, I'm not exactly comfortable with the idea of playing find-the-stereotype either. Like I said up top, it's all a matter of perspective. For instance, Amos & Andy is almost universally regarded by academics as one of the worst examples of stereotypical television ever. Don't tell that to my grandmother. She loves Amos & Andy. Why? Because the characters actually remind her of people she used to know. Likewise, part of the reason I love Sanford & Son so much is that Fred is like an uncouth version of some of my relatives. Added to that is the fact that GTA is a video game. Anybody old enough to play the game knows that it isn't real. So when, as is the case in the article, a person talks about how the game is not suitable for a seven year-old to play, I get suspicious. Of course a child is not supposed to play it. It says that on the label. So if a child is playing it, who's responsible? Is it Rockstar Games, the store, or the parent? Don't front, you know it's the parent. So when it comes to stereotypes prevalent in GTA, everybody looks bad. It's not as if there are virtuous characters in there but none of them are Black. The whole game is full of thugs, thieves, and dope heads. Moreover, in the previous editions, if I recall correctly, there weren't that many Black characters. That's partially what slowed me up from buying, there wasn't a killer I could identify with. I don't wanna be some white cat killing; if I go on a rampage, I want the character to look like me. But maybe that's just my hangup. Bottom line, this is one of those cases in which I think there's a little too much attention paid to something that's only of marginal significance. The degree to which violence in video games and pop culture as a whole has a damaging effect on people's real lives and behavior is debatable. The degree to which game producers are responsible for the behavior of people's children is a matter for even further debate. What's not in question is that, particularly among Black folks, a little more time away from the television in any context, broadcast or video game, and a little more time spent exercising the mind would yield significant dividends. (You know I had to slip that in there.) Maybe we should concern ourselves more with planting and cultivating the right seeds in our children's minds (and our own, for that matter)and getting out and experiencing other people so that stereotypical images have less validity. Just a thought.