Instep Today

Asian Americans on TV: Study notes continued underrepresentation

September 14, 2017
By NewsBytes

With the emergence of TV shows like Master of None and Fresh off the Boat, the initial perception was that Asian Americans are finally getting some much-needed representation. But diversity on TV is not as strong as it should be. This and more became obvious with the release of a new study titled Tokens on the Small Screen, which says progress is a lot slower than we care to admit.

With the emergence of TV shows like Master of None and Fresh off the Boat, the initial perception was that Asian Americans are finally getting some much-needed representation. But diversity on TV is not as strong as it should be. This and more became obvious with the release of a new study titled Tokens on the Small Screen, which says progress is a lot slower than we care to admit.

“The multi-university study, a 10-year follow-up to a 2005 and 2006 study of AAPIs in primetime television, examined 242 TV shows and 2,052 series regulars from broadcast, cable, and streaming television scripted shows airing between September 1, 2015-August 31, 2016. In the end, they concluded that although there are more opportunities for AAPI actors, their characters remain marginalized and tokenized on screen,” wrote Deadline in an extensive piece that breaks down the study.

The report noted that 70 per cent of TV series regulars are white and at least 96 percent of TV shows have at least one white series regular. 

“It’s not enough to have Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on just a handful of shows —they need to reflect real life,” said Nancy Wang Yuen, who is one of the professors to conduct the study and also wrote Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors And Racism. “Shows set in diverse cities like New York and Los Angeles should not be completely white.”

She added: “The industry needs to see that AAPI shows and actors draw ratings and garner awards. It’s time to stop treating AAPIs as tokens and cast more of them as leads with complex stories and relationships.”