Primetime Television

Portrayals and Effects

Authored by: Dana Mastro , Andrea Figueroa-Caballero , Alexander Sink

The Routledge Companion to Media and Race

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138020726
eBook ISBN: 9781315778228
Adobe ISBN: 9781317695837


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Decades of content analyses examining portrayals of race and ethnicity on primetime television indicate that this programming offers little in the way of equitable characterizations of racial/ethnic minorities (Mastro 2009). Of course variations in depictions exist across racial/ethnic groups and types of programs (e.g., genres); however, in the main these groups are underrepresented compared with U.S. population statistics and often limited to a restricted set of narrow and/or stereotypical roles. Exposure to these media messages is not without consequence. Effects studies consistently reveal that viewing the content offered on television influences the cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors of audiences, in a manner consistent with the media messages (varying based on individual difference features of the consumers). Accordingly, understanding how different racial/ethnic groups are portrayed on television, and the range of possible individual and societal-level implications that may result from exposure, is socially and theoretically significant. To this end, the current chapter: (a) documents the frequency and nature of depictions of racial and ethnic groups on primetime television, (b) details both the harmful and constructive outcomes known to result from exposure, and (c) suggests areas for further consideration.

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