A UCLA study found that television series with ethnically diverse casts and writers have higher ratings. I think the success of Sleepy Hollow and Scandal are testaments to that right now. So let’s see more diverse shows, please.
I am not the kind of person who tunes into a show just because there is a certain race or gender, the subject has to be interesting but I will say, if I am on the fence about whether or not to watch a show diversity usually is the thing to push me over the edge. Why? Well, if a cast is diverse in race, class, gender or sexual orientation then I at least know the writers are thinking inclusively and thoughtfully about the American landscape today.
Like, are you watching Twisted on ABC family? To be frank I love a good teen soap opera but the fact that there was a black female lead and an indian male lead (not to mention a diverse supporting cast from the adults to the sideline friends) who weren’t cultural stereotypes was super enticing.
According to the UCLA study, “In an analysis of more than 1,000 television shows that aired on 67 cable and broadcast networks during the 2011–12 season, UCLA researchers studying racial diversity in the entertainment industry found that more viewers were drawn to shows with ethnically diverse lead cast members and writers, while shows reflecting less diversity in their credits attracted smaller audiences.”
What’s sad is that while having leads and characters of color is a huge draw for viewers there is still a pathetically low amount of representation of these groups, perhaps that’s why the shows that are more inclusive have such huge draws: people are thirsty to have themselves reflected on screen for once. Another study, released on Oct. 8 at the 27th annual National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications conference found that, “ethnic minorities and women remain woefully underrepresented on both cable and broadcast programs as lead actors, writers and show creators.”
There was a noticeable difference in viewership in shows that were more diverse, “Median household ratings peaked among broadcast television shows that were 41 to 50 percent minority, while ratings took a dive for shows with casts that were 10 percent minority or less. The study also showed a ratings slump for those shows on cable television with writing staffs that were 10 percent minority or less — the vast majority of shows in the analysis. Median household ratings were lowest for these shows. By contrast, ratings peaked among cable shows with writing staffs that were 11 to 20 percent minority and 41 to 50 percent minority.”
This makes perfect sense, the United States is a much more diverse nation than it was just a couple of decades ago, of course we need our popular culture to reflect this. It’s no secret that many of us long for the day where fat girls aren’t quirky best friends, Black folk aren’t janitors, women aren’t secretaries, Hispanics aren’t maids, Asians aren’t nerds and gay men don’t behave solely as boisterous clowns. We’re past that and sadly, only a few great shows are paving the way.