A Stereotype is a one-dimensional way of viewing a depicting a person, usually related to their ethnicity or geographical region.
Several characters have appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip that represent stereotypes:
- Native Americans- Chief Yellowpony, from the 1930s, was a stereotypical Native American who spoke broken English. Nah Tay was another broad Native American stereotype shown during the 1960s. Deciption of Native Americans has improved since then (see Joe High Eagle and Joe Sampson).
- Asian- Throughout the storylines of Stud Bronzen and Johnny Ramm, Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants were depicted with stereotypical features such as slanted eyes, prominent cheekbones and buck teeth. They were commonly addressed and referred to as "Chinamen" and "Orientals" (neither of which is currently the preferred nomenclature). This was also the case with Pruneface's accomplice Togo. Laffy Smith's brother Kirk is described as a hero for killing 30 "Japs" (an offensive term for the Japanese), though that story was set during wartime. Joe Jitsu, one of the four main protagonists created for The Dick Tracy Show, is a similar example, though he was portrayed as a positive character modeled after the "Charlie Chan"-type.
- Hispanic- In the 1960's Go-Go Gomez from The Dick Tracy Show is am example of the Spanish-speaking stereotype, with a thick accent, sombrero, sandals, moustache and tanned skin.
- African Americans- In the early years of Dick Tracy, several African American characters appeared playing comic relief roles. These characters displayed common stereotypical features of the time, including exaggerated lips, laziness, and not speaking well. These characters also often had stereotypical jobs associated with African Americans of time, such as valets (see Memphis Smith), elevator operators, maids (Della), doormen, nightwatchmen, and railroad porters (see the 88 Keyes storyline). In later years, an effort was made to improve the depiction of African Americans in the strip, see Lee Ebony and Sergeant Jackson.
- Irish Americans- Many of the uniform/beat policeman are in the early days of the strip had Irish names, such as Officer Clancy, Officer Mulligan (Pop Warner Storyline) Officer Murphy (Brow Storyline), Officer Murphy (Flattop Storyline) and Officer O'Malley. This played upon the stereotype that many Irish immigrants went into police work. Pat Patton was occasionally described as having an "irish temper." State Trooper Dennis O'Copper was apparently an Irish-born, naturalized American who displayed pride in his Irish heritage and spoke with an Irish brogue.
- Gypsies- A stereotypical gypsy character appeared early in the saga of Mary Steele and Larceny Lu. She was depicted as a poor transient and fortune teller.
- Ruralites- Many characters in the strip have been represented as an unsophisticated "hillbilly" stereotype, which is long-established in the American comedic tradition. B.O. Plenty and his family are the most prominent example of this, but there have been others as well.
- Middle Eastern- In the Nails Wolley storyline, the jewelry salesman Jade is depicted as stereotypically Jewish. As recently as the 2000s, Middle Eastern characters have been depicted in the strip as broad stereotypes, shown as being hairy, fanatical terrorists with an incomprehensible language.