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Representation of South Asians in American Film and Television Media Donna Mathew Keywords: Race, Ethnicity, Media Representation, South Asian, Culture, Media Studies, American Media Introduction The media has a huge impact on issues concerning race and ethnicity. Depictions of certain groups of people in the media can impact the way in which these groups are perceived by others as well as by members of the same racial/ethnic category. The way in which racial/ethnic groups are portrayed in the media can either harm or benefit these groups. While African Americans have attained a degree of parity in terms of the quantity of depictions in television and movie time, the quality of their onscreen personas are more or less based on societal stereotypes. For South Asians, little has changed over the years, their on screen characters are based on long-standing media definitions of South Asians. Within these rare images, a limited set of characterizations often predominates, such as the spiritual guru, the taxi driver or convenience store owner; most recently in the last two decades these roles have switched to the tech-savvy nerd and the brown terrorist. These racialized representations of ethnic communities are not free of consequence. Exposure to and consumption of images and messages associated with certain racial and ethnic communities in the media leads to the formation of cognitions regarding these minority group by the majority group members (i.e., whites). As a result, unfavorable media representation can lead to the perpetuation of negative stereotypes which in turn leads to numerous unfavorable policy
decisions by the State and even active or passive harmful physical action by the majority group on to the minority. However, when media depictions shows South Asians in a favorable light, it leads to positive reinforcement of the community and society at large. Negative characterizations of racial and ethnic minorities prompt emotions such as shame, anger and self-esteem issues among community members. On the other hand, positive representation can be a catalyst for group pride, which bolsters their self-esteem. The term “South Asian” is a term that is used to refer to individuals having origins from the countries in the Indian sub-continent, these include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan (Leonard, 1997; Purkayastha, 2005). In this paper I use Indian and South Asian interchangeably. For my paper, I aim to look at how media representations of South Asians, as racial and ethnic minorities in America, perpetuate stereotypes about this group. The visual medium including film and television has always been, a globalized medium. South Asian men and women are often portrayed as both overachieving and inferior in order to maintain white supremacist and male-dominated ideologies. Intersectional scholars such as Crenshaw (1991), Mohanty (1991), Hooks (1992) and Hurtardo (1996) have stated that, people of color especially women of color are at a far greater social disadvantage as compared to white middleclass women. South Asian men are also depicted as either oversexed or asexual depending

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