Middle Eastern actors stereotyped

| Associated Press 12 Sep 2018

Actors and characters of Middle Eastern and North African descent are either ignored by TV or stereotyped, a new study has found.

The few such actors who get work are largely confined to playing tyrants and terrorists, said the university-funded study.

One percent of regularly seen TV series actors have roots in countries including Egypt, Turkey and Israel. But estimates show about 3 percent of the US population--10 million people--are from the region, said the study's lead author, associate professor Nancy Wang Yuen of Biola University in California.

Researchers who examined 242 scripted prime-time series on broadcast, cable and streaming during the 2015-16 season found 90 to 97 percent had no characters of Middle Eastern or North African ethnicity.

When those characters do appear, 78 percent are tyrants or terrorists, agents or soldiers, mostly speaking with obvious foreign accents. The study warned such depictions can contribute to the rise of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment in US society.

Three instances were described as "exemplary" in the report: Iranian-American actress Necar Zadegan's portrayal of an attorney on Bravo's Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce, the cyber-security engineer played by Egyptian-American [and Emmy-winning] actor Rami Malek on Mr Robot, and a tennis pro on Amazon's Red Oaks, played by Turkish-American Ennis Esmer. "His ethnicity doesn't define the role, and he gets to be a full person aside from that, and in fact because of that," Esmer said of his character.

The entertainment industry must seek change, the study said, recommending the hiring and mentoring of Middle East and North African actors, directors, executives and others.


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