The Situationist

Stereotyping Stories

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 22, 2009

Getting Pegged

Our favorite radio program, This American Life, broadcast an especially situationist episode in July, which you can listen to here.   The program’s description is as follows.

* * *

Prologue.

Amy Roberts thought it was obvious that she was an adult, not a kid, and she assumed the friendly man working at the children’s museum knew it too. Unfortunately, the man had Amy pegged all wrong. And by the time she figured it out, it was too late for either of them to save face. Host Ira Glass talks to Amy about the embarrassing ordeal that taught her never to assume she knows what someone else is thinking. (8 1/2 minutes)

Act One. The Fat Blue Line.

While riding in a patrol car to research a novel, crime writer Richard Price witnessed a misunderstanding that for many people is pretty much accepted as an upsetting fact of life. Richard Price told this story—which he describes as a tale taken from real life and dramatized—onstage at the Moth in New York. Price’s most recent novel is Lush Life, which he’s adapting for film. (12 minutes)

Act Two. Stereotypes Uber Alles.

When writer Chuck Klosterman got back from a trip to Germany, friends asked him what Germans were like. Did nine days as an American tourist make him qualified to answer? In this excerpt of an essay he wrote for Esquire magazine, Chuck explains why not. (6 minutes)

Act Three. Yes, No or Baby.

There are some situations where making judgments about people based on limited amounts of information is not only accepted, but required. One of those situations is open adoption, where birth mothers actually choose the adoptive parents for their child. TAL producer Nancy Updike talks to a pregnant woman named Kim going through the first stage of open adoption: reading dozens of letters from prospect parents, all of whom seem utterly capable and appealing. With so many likeable candidates to choose from, Kim ends up focusing on tiny details of people’s lives. (6 minutes)

Act Four. Paradise Lost.

Shalom Auslander tells the story of the time he went on vacation, pegged the guest in the room next door as an imposter and devoted his holiday to trying to prove it. Shalom Auslander is the author, most recently, of the memoir Foreskin’s Lament.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Alcohol, Hotdogs, Sexism, and Racism,” “TAL Animation on the Situation of Memory,” “A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge,” You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” and “The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes.”

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One Response to “Stereotyping Stories”

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