The Dumb Jocks

Almost every TV show or movie I watched growing up that took place in a high school featured the “dumb jocks”. The football players were the popular guys who always walked around in their letterman jackets and dated the cheerleaders. And more often than not, they were mind-numbingly stupid. These “dumb jocks” were good at one thing and one thing only: playing football. The authority figures on  these shows (i.e teachers, coaches) would give the football players a free pass on their schoolwork so that they could remain on the team. Popular media also told us that once these dumb football players left high school or college, if they didn’t go into the major leagues they were destined for a miserable life. One teacher on the 1990s TV show Freaks and Geeks (which took place in the 1980s) outlines the lives of the football players versus the geeks:

In general, football players are usually thought of as physically fit men whose money and muscles get them all the girls. As author Katie McGarry puts it in her novel Dare You To, “Jocks usually aren’t smart. Their muscles feast on their brains.” Football players are also thought to be either White or African American, with very little representation of other races in both amateur and professional settings. Another major stereotype surrounding football players (especially in the high school setting) is that they are extremely homophobic and constantly exert their own masculinity by bullying anyone they deem “girly” or a “sissy”.

Personally, I have never encountered a football player who was all muscles and no brains. In my high school the football players were nice to everyone, and we even had a few gay team members with which no one ever had a problem. Although many of the football players were popular, they did not “rule” the school as most stereotypes seem to show. There were popular kids from every different activity and clique.

I find it interesting that there are hardly any stereotypes surrounding female football players. This in and of itself is a stereotype. Most people think of football players as men! Unless, of course, they are referring to the Legends Football League in which all of the players are female (hooray!) but play all of their games in padding and lingerie (oh). As a female, I definitely do not fit into the stereotypes surrounding football players. Never mind the ideas of these players as dumb or destined for an unsatisfying, washed up life. I don’t even fit the first criteria of being male. If I ever did want to play football, according to the most common portrayal of female players, I would have to do so in my underwear.

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One Response to The Dumb Jocks

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    You give great examples that demonstrate the popular representations of the “dumb jock” stereotype, and describe its contours in a way that resonates. I like how you push this further to describe how beyond this stereotypes are other assumptions about the subject position of the football player as clearly male. This is often not questioned, and it’s worth serious consideration. Why must football remain an unquestioned male domain, at least in the eyes of popular media?

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