Ethnic Minorities in Today’s Entertainment Media

by mangoislyf on April 25, 2017 - 4:17pm

       How many movies have you seen with a main character that is neither an attractive white woman or a white male? Not many right? That’s what I thought. These movies, old or new will always stun you with a hot blond muscular man driving his Mercedes to pick up his gorgeous brunette, both coming back from saving the world form evil, which let’s be real most often consist of a an ethnic minority antagonist. One of the best examples of this subtle discrimination are all the James Bond movies… Nonetheless, minorities in films are not only represented as bad guys in our western world but in contrast, if shown on the big screen as “good people”, they will often fit the stereotypical social roles of people of colour determined by the writers of those scripts, who are generally white. For instance, the TV series Big Bang Theory makes us subconsciously label the character of Raj Koothrappali as “The Indian Guy”. These are only so few example out of millions of racial minorities being labelled and put into behavioural categories determined by white people. The media today choses to predominantly serve the White audience, providing them with good identity representation, while misrepresenting any other ethnic minorities.

 

       The deplorable truth behind the misrepresentation of minorities in the entertainment media is that there are hardly any non-white writers behind the screen. “Unfortunately, the writers’ room—where the decisions of who will be represented onscreen and in what way are decided—hasn’t quite caught up yet." (Harris and Swinney, 2015) The so called “writer’s room” is a place in our society that belongs to the white majority that don’t experience the realities of being a minority, and therefore are unable to accurately portray them on television. These different racial groups become poorly represented due to their insufficient social power necessary to represent themselves behind the screen. “People of colour occupied just 5.5 percent of the executive producer roles in the 2013–14 season." (Harris, 2015) There is an actual lack of accessibility to those writing rooms due to the current economical and social restrictions many talented writers are facing stemming from the xenophobia of the industry as a whole and the lack of privilege of these minority writers. “The early 1970s marked an era in which racial and ethnic minority media ownership was linked to the political, economic and cultural rights of underrepresented communities (Subervi-Velez, 1999). The civil rights orientation to media ownership emerged in the aftermath of the civil rights movement when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was challenged for failing to uphold the moral and legislative principles of serving the diverse needs of citizens and the public interest.” (Castañeda, Mari, et al., 2015)  People of colour will therefore have a lot less access or privilege to become part of the writer’s room. All due to the unjust reality our world where privilege is not to take for granted. From a deontological perspective, the act itself of pleasing the white public and marginalizing ethnic minorities by producing films and tv shows that barely represent other racial groups than the whites is very immoral. “This leads to the inherent racism that has been found to exist in newscasts across the country (United States).” (Horton, Price and Brown, 1999) This action is therefore immoral through a deontological perspective. 

 

       This very unprofessional representation of different racial groups in the media today has an enormous impact on our society. “Specifically, Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans were often underrepresented in the media, and when at all present, they were cast in a narrow set of typically negative roles as buffoons, criminals, or hypersexual nonprofessional individuals (e.g., Mastro & Tukachinsky, 2011).” (Tukachinsky, 2015) These stereotypes on screen, when seen by credulous children and young adults of colour, subtly push them to try and fit in the labelled categories where they may feel more accepted in society. On the other hand, the young white generation seeing these misrepresented racial behaviours on screen will be more predisposed to believe them. Here’s a very basic example: after the 10 year old girl has watched a few episodes of the very popular American tv show: That 70s Show, she will one day encounter with a Latino looking individual on the playground at school and might directly associate him to Fes (Foreign Exchange Student) from the show. The girl might directly associate him with the idea already implanted in her head of this boy’s stereotypical behaviour. Some won't notice right away the consequence of such events happening all over the world today and it is because they have been victims of this effect making them unable to see minorities as successful figures but just a sign of a country’s unequally represented diversity.  The immorality of underrepresentation is firstly determined by its understated xenophobic outcomes. Looking at this through a teleological point of view, not only will the ethnic minorities suffer from this box they are put in by the white majority, but society in general will suffer due to a lack of racial diversity, a powerful tool for any society. Instead of having people seeing their country’s multiculturalism as a beautiful asset, the poorly representative entertainment media creates a segregation between ethnicities.

 

       Through the perspective of Virtue Ethics, fairness and truthfulness are very important concepts that the media today doesn’t show signs of. The false representation of minorities in the media can almost be perceived as a lie to our community. In order to be fair, the writers of these scripts should include different people regardless of their race or ethnicity in their movie scripts and television shows. Without any doubts this would be the virtuous decision to make for a screenplay writer in order to express truthfulness of our society’s diversity on screen. In fact, fairness plays the important role of having a diverse writer’s room where all ethnicities can have a fair representation behind the screen. In contrast, the biggest vice that plays a an important role in Entertainment media today is injustice. Not all ethnic minorities have a proper representation behind and on the screen, which leads to much conflict like discussed earlier. All of it due to the injustice factor of the entertainment media today. In the end, Injustice outweighs the fairness and truthfulness that are rarely given any importance in this field. Therefore, looking through a virtue ethics perspective, this practice is absolutely immoral and needs to give more space to virtue.

 

       In conclusion, even though our society has shown a lot of progress with casting ethnic minorities on screen, there is still a lot of work left to be done in order to reach an accurate representation of a diverse society. This is a very important question to raise in every country’s department of Entertainment Media, for changing this bad habit of pleasing only the majority does much more harm than good.

 

(Word Count: 1,148)

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

1. Castañeda, Mari, et al. "Racial and Ethnic Inclusion in the Digital Era: Shifting Discourses in Communications Public Policy." Journal of Social Issues, vol. 71, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp.139-154. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/josi.12101.

 

2. Tukachinsky, Riva. "Where We Have Been and Where We Can Go from Here: Looking to the Future in Research on Media, Race, and Ethnicity." Journal of Social Issues, vol. 71, no.1, Mar. 2015, pp. 186-199. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/josi. 12104.

 

3. Harris, Aisha, and Jacob T. Swinney. "This Is What Happens When Writers’ Rooms Aren’t Diverse." Slate Magazine. N.p., 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

 

4. Harris, Aisha. "TV Is More Diverse than Ever—on Screen. Why Not in the Writers’ Room?" Slate Magazine. N.p., 18 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

 

5. Horton, Yurii, Raagen Price, and Eric Brown. "Portrayal of Minorities in the Film, Media and Entertainment Industries." PORTRAYAL OF MINORITIES IN THE FILM, MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

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