If you don’t tell your own story, someone else will. For people from Middle East/North Africa (MENA), this has indeed been a challenge when it comes to the stories that they see in the media. Nielsen data shows that MENA presence on screen stands at just 2.5% across 1,500 broadcast, cable and streaming TV shows. But it’s not just the media that underrepresents this group. In fact, the U.S. Census still classifies MENA people as white, leaving a population that must fight harder for resources because they are under represented and undercounted. So, what can the media industry do to increase MENA representation on screen and tell more accurate stories about their experiences?
To explore some ideas and opportunities, we spoke with Dr. Evelyn Alsultany, Associate Professor, Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at University of Southern California, and educational consultant for the MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition (MAAC), an organization that advocates for greater visibility of Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian talent in Hollywood.
“We have consumed so many images and storylines that stereotype Arabs, Iranians and Muslims, and of course many other groups. Their harm is not in one story, but rather in their repetition and in the lack of diversity in images. The result is that the stereotypes come to represent an entire group of people and rob them of their humanity.”Dr. Evelyn Alsultany
Q: From 2019-2021, Nielsen data shows that the genres where MENA talent is most often seen are biographies, action sports and dark comedies. From your