A new study from Biola University has found that television characters of Middle Eastern and North African descent are often written stereotypically or are even ignored on screen, and that the few actors who obtain work are mostly consigned with playing terrorists or tyrants.
Examining the 2015-16 season, researchers studied over 242 scripted prime-time series on broadcast, cable and streaming services, and found that between 90% and 97% of the programming had no characters of Middle Eastern or North African ethnicity. The study noted that the lack of representation or stereotyped roles could contribute to the rise of anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
However, it’s not all bad news as the report found three instances where portrayal was seen as “exemplary”: Egyptian-American Rami Malek’s Emmy award winning portrayal of hacker anti-hero on “Mr. Robot,” Iranian-American actress Necar Zadegan’s portrayal of a feisty lawyer on Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” and a tennis pro on Amazon’s “Red Oaks” played by Turkish-American actor Ennis Esmer.
The study concludes with the recommendation that the entertainment industry seek self-examination and makes proper changes including the hiring and mentoring of Middle East and North African actors, directors, writers and executives.