The series help to change the image of immigrants

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A study looks at the way Latinos, blacks and Asians are represented in television fiction

Fiction series with immigrant characters help their viewers to change their attitude towards immigration in real life. That is one of the conclusions of A study published last week and made by the cultural organization Define American and the Norman Lear Center for research and evaluation at the University of Southern California.

To reach this conclusion, researchers have focused on viewers of three series that addressed immigration-related issues in their plots in the 2018-2019 season: Orange Is the New Black, Madam Secretary Y Superstore. The 940 people interviewed for this study do not belong to the same ideological field, but come from different geographical locations, have different races, different lifestyles and different political ideologies, as specified in the report. But the conclusion was common: the more fiction series with immigrant characters are watched, the more common it is to think that the United States needs immigrants and the more frequent it is to show their support publicly, both in demonstrations and on social media. These viewers also held more inclusive attitudes and were less likely to link immigration to crime.

In addition to this qualitative analysis, the report, entitled Change the narrative, change the world (change the narrative, change the world), has also studied content related to immigration and race in other series. The researchers analyzed 129 immigrant characters from 97 episodes of 59 series that aired in the 2018-2019 season, concluding that the representation made in television fiction of immigration and race does not correspond in many cases to reality. For example, the report registers an over-representation in television fiction of immigrants from the Middle East and a small sample of people from Asian countries. While in reality 26% of American immigrants are Asian, in fiction only 12% are. Closer are Latinos, who are 50% in fiction compared to 44% in reality.

The difference between fiction and reality stands out when it comes to the regular or irregular situation of these characters. While 24% of immigrants in the United States are undocumented, in television series that number rises to 63%. It is also striking that 22% of the immigrant characters had a relationship with some type of crime in their plot. This figure dropped from 34% of the characters in these circumstances in the 2017-2018 season. Words such as “deportation” (in 29% of the episodes), “illegal” (in 22%) or “undocumented” (in 17%) are also frequent in their plots.


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