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This is Why It’s Important To Have Representation on TV

For some people, their TVs are the windows to what’s happening in the world. And we all know that window has distorted glass depending on who tells the story. That’s why it’s important that we tell our stories and are as authentic as possible when we tell them.

A study entitled “Change the Narrative, Change the World” was released by the nonprofit media and culture organization Define American in partnership with the Norman Lear Center, which researches and evaluates media at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The new study found that TV shows with immigrant characters — such as “Ramy,” “One Day at a Time” and “How to Get Away With Murder” — are inspiring viewers to take real-life action.

Researchers looked at how three key immigration storylines from “Orange Is the New Black,” “Madam Secretary” and “Superstore” changed viewers’ understanding of and attitudes toward immigrants.

Nico Santos in a scene from "Superstore."

“Superstore” sales associate Mateo Liwanag (Nico Santos) talks to a friend in an ICE detention center.
(NBC)

For Nico Santos, who plays sales associate Mateo Liwanag on “Superstore,” that perception — especially of the immigrants who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas — matters.

“For me, as a Filipino immigrant, I know — a lot of members of my family, or close friends, people in my immediate circle — we all know somebody who is undocumented. It’s part of the immigrant experience,” Santos told The Times.

“If you’re an immigrant, you’re going to know somebody who’s undocumented, whether it’s you personally, somebody in your own family, a close friend or a friend of a friend,” Santos said. “It’s just part of how we come to be.”

Audiences who are exposed to immigrant storylines on TV are more likely to take related action. The more often people watched shows featuring immigrant characters, the report found, the more they agreed that the U.S. should welcome more immigrants.

Orange Is the New Black” viewers were more likely to become active on social media, letting their friends and followers know that they stood with immigrants in their communities.

Those who watched “Madam Secretary” became more likely to attend a rally and go to community events to support immigrants.

“Superstore” audiences took more immigration-related actions overall – they spoke up for immigrants across social media and in conversations with friends.

As you can see, it’s important TV portrays the diversity that exists in this world; to create more empathy and awareness.

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