This report sheds light on the representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) on television. We examine broadcast, cable, and digital platform television shows in the 2015–2016 season to measure the number of AAPI series regulars and how they fare in settings, screen time, relationships, stereotypes, and storylines. A total of 242 TV shows and 2052 series regulars are examined. This is a ten-year follow up study to our 2005 and 2006 studies of AAPIs in prime time broadcast television.
TV SO WHITE: Whites dominate the television landscape, making up nearly 70% of television series regulars compared to monoracial Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who comprise only 4%. Pacific Islanders make up only 0.2% of series regulars, which is half of their U.S. population.
MISSING: A full 64% of all shows do not feature a single AAPI series regular. In contrast, 96% of TV shows have at least one White series regular. Furthermore, the majority of shows set in AAPI-dense cities including New York and Los Angeles have no AAPI series regulars.
ISOLATED: Intimate relationships add to a character’s depth and draw an audience into that character’s development. Three times as many White series regulars as AAPIs have romantic and/or familial relationships on shows featuring AAPI series regulars.
LOW VISIBILITY: 87% of AAPI series regulars are on-screen for less than half an episode and 17% of AAPI series regulars have the lowest screen time on their show. Audiences also see White series regulars on-screen 3 times longer than AAPI series regulars.
TOKENS: 68% of TV shows featuring AAPI series regulars have ONLY 1.
SEGREGATED & ENDANGERED: Over one-third of all AAPI series regulars appear on just 11 shows, over half of which have been cancelled.
STEREOTYPED: The television landscape continues to be littered with problematic racial stereotypes, including forever foreigner, yellow peril, model minority, emasculated men, exoticized women, sidekicks to White characters, whitewashed characters, and White experts.
EXEMPLARY: Some shows include exemplary and multifaceted representations of AAPIs, including: The Night Of (HBO), The Walking Dead (AMC), Master of None (Netflix), and Fresh Off the Boat (ABC).
FULL 2017 REPORT