Muslims underrepresented and stereotyped on TV, study says
And across the 200 TV series, only 12 series regulars were Muslim, the study found. Seven of those Muslim series regulars were perpetrators or targets of physical violence — part of the pervasive stereotyping of Muslim characters, according to the researchers.
The research focused on scripted, episodic series from the US, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. A total of 87% of the shows studied didn’t include even one Muslim speaking character, says the study.
The Muslims that were portrayed tended to follow stereotypes — and they lacked the diversity that characterizes the real Muslim population, according to the study. Over half of Muslim speaking characters were men, and they were mostly Middle Eastern. Very few Muslims were identified with the LGBTQ community and none were shown with a disability, the researchers found.
The researchers identified several tropes that dominated the depiction of Muslim characters on TV. Muslims tended to be depicted as “foreign,” speaking accented English or not speaking English at all. Almost a third of Muslim speaking characters were violent against other characters — and 40% were the targets of violence.
Muslim women tended to be depicted as “fearful and endangered,” according to the study. They were shown mostly as the victims of threats and violence.
“Attitudes toward Muslims may be formed by a variety of factors,” they wrote. “However, one in particular, the mass media, is a component within the control of storytellers and content creators.”
And they called for greater and more complex portrayals of Muslim characters on TV, particularly those created by Muslim filmmakers.
“Centering stories on Muslim characters will require changes both on screen as well as behind the camera,” wrote the research team.
“Across the sample in this study, it was clear that few if any writers were Muslim. Working with Muslim creatives to develop and bring stories about Muslims to the screen is essential to increasing authentic portrayals.”