Ethnic stereotyping is so yesterday. Except in the movies, of course, where anyone of Middle Eastern descent is classified a terrorist and Italian-Americans sport gold rope chains and down lasagna like it's going out of style. Sidekick roles in particular are stereotype central, including the sassy black best friend role ("Honey," "Bringing Down the House" and "Clueless" to name a tiny percentage) and the nerdy Indian friend (that's a newer one).
Evil Mexican drug lords, pearls-of-wisdom-spouting Native Americans, uppity white country-clubbers, Asians with a natural ability for martial arts -- they're all there for a variety of reasons, whether to provide comic relief or reassure viewers with their soothing predictability.
The bad news? This trend gets pretty stale (and often insulting), especially if the movie doesn't show someone of the same ethnicity in a non-stereotypical role. In the 1930s, a black character was most likely cast as a wisecracking or noble servant. In the 2000s, there's a different stereotype at work. "Not Another Teenage Movie" lampooned this when the character Malik said, "I am the token black guy. I'm just supposed to smile and stay out of the conversation and say things like: 'Damn,' 'S---,' and 'That is whack.'"