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On diversity

In the Arts section of the New York Times, an article about the CW network’s new comedy series “Aliens in America? discusses the significance of the main character’s cultural and religious identity as a Pakastani Muslim teenager transplanted to Wisconsin. The headline reads “Muslims on TV, No Terror in Sight? in a reference to the stereotype of Muslim-as-terrorist that exists in America. Because the article discusses a show that itself does not deal in stereotypical roles, the article manages to move beyond stereotypes – it even calls out the one major stereotype (Muslims as terrorists) in the headline. It discusses the effects of current events, which has lead to depictions of terroristic villains who praise Allah, mentioning the current television portrayals of Muslims (who “are shrouded in a web of terrorist plots and sinister motives?), the response the show has received (it’s “winning praise from advocacy groups and some critics for more rounded, lighthearted portrayals?),
The writer quotes a media critic, who says the show effectively uses comedy to “debunk myths about Muslims,? as well as a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council who worked as a consultant for the series who reviewed scripts for accuracy and sensitivity. Professors of mass communication were quoted in the article about the implications of stereotypical roles on television (Professor Hussain: “If you live somewhere where you may not know a Muslim, and the only images you get are on television, that’s problematic?). The creators of the show were also quoted about how they developed the idea for the show.
The article draws on actual events from episodes to substantiate certain points, especially how the show deals with heavy political issues and stereotypes with humor.
While Muslim voices and characters are often almost non-existent in mainstream American media (I wonder how many Muslims there are on the staff at the Times?), a show like this allows a major paper to discuss what television programing says about our views of “diverse? groups.
That’s a really good thing - not only for the people who watch the show but those who read the article and think about the stereotypes of the racial or ethnic “other? that play out on the small screen.