Over 25% of the world’s population is Muslim. However, they were only 1% of speaking characters in 200 shows. Here’s what the researchers had to say.
Muslims are dramatically underrepresented on TV despite making up a quarter of the world’s population, and when they are, their portrayal is superficially stereotyped, according to a new study.
More than 200 television programs that aired between 2018 and 2019 were examined by researchers at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in an effort to better understand how Muslims were portrayed on popular shows.
Despite the fact that 25% of the world’s population is Muslim, researchers found that speaking characters of the same religion accounted for only 1% of the total scripts.
Only 12 series regulars were Muslim among 200 TV shows, the study found. Moreover, even in these Muslim series, regulars were either perpetrators or victims of physical violence, contributing to the widespread stereotype that Muslim characters are extremists and terrorists.
On the other hand, the study focused on scripted and episodic TV shows from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. According to the analysis, 87% of the shows considered lacked even one Muslim character.
He found that the Muslims portrayed frequently adhered to stereotypes and lacked the diversity found in the actual Muslim population. They were also mostly male and mostly from the Middle East.
The researchers also found that none were portrayed as having a disability, which ignores a significant portion of the region’s population, unlike other characters from different religions on television.
Scholars have discovered a number of recurring themes in television depictions of Muslim characters. Muslims are often considered “outsiders”, speaking English with accents or not at all. Nearly a third of Muslim-speaking characters have engaged in violence against other characters, and 40% of them have been the target of such violence.
The survey revealed that Muslim women were often portrayed as “fearful and in danger”. Most of the time, they were presented as the target of threats and violence.
Researchers have claimed that these portrayals have a significant influence on how viewers view Muslims in the real world. In comparison to other religious groups, the Pew Research Center has determined that Americans hold the most unfavorable views of Muslims.
“Attitudes towards Muslims can be shaped by a variety of factors,” they said.
“However, one in particular, mass media, is a component under the control of storytellers and content creators.”
The researchers cited some current television shows, such as Hulu’s “Ramy,” a comedy series about a young Egyptian American man living in New Jersey, that have challenged these assumptions.
Additionally, they demanded that Muslim characters on television be portrayed in broader and more nuanced ways, especially by Muslim filmmakers.
“Centering stories on Muslim characters will require changes both on screen and behind the camera,” the research team wrote.
“Across the sample of this study, it was clear that few, if any, writers were Muslim. Working with Muslim creatives to develop and bring stories about Muslims to screen is key to increasing authentic portrayals.