I like stereotypes. They save time. You like stereotypes as well, and you use them. They are cognitively efficient. In fact, they are utterly necessary. Every day, you make thousands of tacit assumptions about the environment around you: there are no tigers in the bathroom, buildings will not fall on you for no reason, the person behind you in the line for lunch can be trusted not to hold you down and rape you. You assume that the sidewalk will not collapse and the floor is not, in fact, actually lava. You purchase food and eat it without submitting it to a full battery of chemical and biological tests. If you’re American, you speak English to people you have never met before. (The future demographic shift of this country will teach you a lesson about that.)
The only people who cannot effectively “stereotype” are deeply autistic people who have no ability to ignore and/or generalize things. Autism is defined as the inability to form abstract concepts — in other words, stereotypes. When two normal people have a conversation, they can use an abstract concept like “car” or “refrigerator” without difficulty. Their ability to stereotype and abstract allows them to simply glide past the idea of “refrigerator”. The person who suffers from a degree of autism needs to know all about the refrigerator. This is not them being difficult; it is literally the manifestation of their illness.
It’s probably no coincidence that modern popular culture is so obsessed with “breaking down stereotypes” and focusing on the exceptions to a rule rather than focusing on the rule itself. After all, we are experiencing unprecedented rates of autism and autism spectrum behavior. The autistic mind is obsessed with exceptions to the rule. It loves Malala and Obama and the Harlequin Golf and every other case where somebody or something deviates sharply from expected behavior. The autistic mind is comforted by cases where stereotypes don’t apply because the autistic mind is fundamentally troubled by stereotypes. The autistic mind likes rules because rules are expressed in absolute and concrete terms. It does not like stereotypes, because stereotypes are abstract generalizations that, like language, are used as a sort of cultural and personal shorthand.
As someone who demonstrates the occasional touch of Aspie behavior, I will confess that my fondness for stereotypes is not quite as strong as it would be were I completely sane and neurotypical. And that is why I’m so annoyed with “pmirp1” and his dutiful conformance to pretty much every aspect of the “stupid Vette owner” stereotype. An entirely normal writer would just nod his head and say to himself, “Another dumbass with a Vette.” I, on the other hand, am compelled to flap this bug with gilded wings just a bit.