Asian Immigrants' Stories Are Still Underrepresented in TV 


A new study that analyzed hundreds of TV episodes from 2017 and 2018 found that—wow, crazy—the people who make TV shows are still pretty bad at depicting the lives of immigrants, and this oversight is especially bad when it comes to depicting Asian immigrants onscreen.

The report was done in collaboration with Define: American and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project and released Wednesday. It enlisted a team of “content coders” who, in all, watched 143 episodes from 47 TV shows and analyzed them for depictions of immigrant characters. They also looked at “the context and use of any culturally- or politically-charged terms relating to immigration.”

What they found is that only 16 percent of immigrant characters from the TV shows surveyed—which included The Good Place, The Bold Type, Quantico, Master of None, among others—are Asian or Pacific Islander. But that’s at odds with the presence of Asian immigrants in the U.S. The 2010 Census revealed that Asian population “grew faster than any other race group over the last decade,” according to the U.S. Census website, and in 2015, Pew Research Center projected that Asian immigrants may take over Latinos as the largest immigrant group by 2065. Currently, Asian immigrants make up 26 percent of immigrants in the U.S., according to the Define: American/USC Annenberg study.

So what’s the hold-up? This is not exactly surprising, as the report shows there’s much about the immigrant experience that TV gets wrong. When TV shows do write immigrants into their plot lines, they are overrepresented as in jail, uneducated, or criminals. Writers rooms could probably stand to hire some more writers of color, but hey, that’s just one not-white woman’s opinion. I’ll just be over here, watching Fresh Off the Boat and waiting for Jane the Virgin to come back.

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