Asian roles on streaming depicted with 'proximity to whiteness': study


Asian characters in the top 100 titles on streaming platforms in 2022 were frequently shown in “close proximity to whiteness,” a recent study has found.

About the finding: Researchers at the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, in partnership with Gold House, found that 42% of those characters had light skin tones. Meanwhile, 68% never spoke to another Asian character, even when the titles had an average of just four Asian characters.

They also found 19 Asian women being depicted as the love interest of someone else. Of those, 53% were white men.

Selecting the characters: The researchers used Nielsen ratings data to identify the top 100 titles. They then listed a total of 347 Asian characters after excluding unscripted and international titles.

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Of those characters, 99 were major roles — including leading and supporting — that saw them appear in at least three episodes of the entire series and at least one in 2022 (for TV), or listed within the first six billing places in IMDb credits (for film). They appeared in 73 titles, including 71 TV episodes and two films.

What the researchers are saying: The study acknowledges the progress it found in terms of casting Asian characters. According to the researchers, they found little evidence of present tropes and stereotypes, though they say this could be due to their focus on major characters.

Still, the results indicate a “meaningful risk” of casting Asians in roles that stress proximity to whiteness instead of "cultural specificity," the researchers said. They believe the cultural specificity “can be an important tool for combatting monolithic perceptions of these groups and for depicting authentic Asian characters who are fully realized, multidimensional individuals.”

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Other findings: The study has highlighted other key findings, such as the prevalence of “race-agnostic” major characters. The term means that race had no connection with the character’s storyline or was mentioned only briefly. The researchers also found some portrayals that were still consistent with stereotypes. Those included “model minority” and “martial arts” or “fighting” roles.

Read the full study, including the list of the characters, here.


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