REPRESENTING?: The Masoods in popular soap-opera Eastenders
Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...
ASIA IS a vast continent with many different nationalities that all have their own varied cultural identity. Yet as a half-British, half-Chinese journalist working in the media it is very obvious to me that there is a lack of Asian faces in the media that I can relate to.
The British Asian community is a hard demographic to break down. UK society cannot assume that because they see a person of South Asian descent in the media that the Asian community is being thoroughly represented and the Asian diversity box can be ticked.
There are so many other nationalities to consider such as Thai, Japanese, Filipino and, the biggest of course, Chinese. The ethnic Chinese community in the UK is estimated to stand at around 700,000, growing at a rate of 9.9% annually according to the Office for National Statistics.
People may claim that Asians are represented in the UK media by their prevalence in mainstream TV, for example the first Asian family in Eastenders, the Masoods, and on radio, such as the BBC Asian Network.
However, once again the Masood family is a family of South Asian descent and the BBC Asian Network is aimed at a South Asian audience. Having the BBC Asian Network in the first place is admitting that Asians are underrepresented. However, by only catering to the demands of the South Asian community they have missed a large group of ‘British Asians’.
Grouping all of Asia together and representing all the different nationalities as one is really very offensive. It is like using a person from Belarus to claim that the UK is represented under the umbrella of Europe.
Although the representation of Asians in the UK media has improved for some over the past few years, namely South Asians, the representation of other Asian communities originating from East or South East Asian is severely lacking.
THE ASIAN community is firmly integrated within the media today. As a young British Asian who plans to build a career within the media industry I have never felt put off by a lack of Asian faces.
Take the BBC, a name that would immediately spring to many people’s minds when discussing traditional British media. They certainly represent the Asian community. The BBC Asian Network is just one example. Aside from the specific network, I also feel we see a strong representation elsewhere – some would say there’s an overrepresentation in fact.
I appreciate that Asians are sometimes cast in comical roles and this is often criticised.
Funny you should say that because just before shows such as Citizen Khan were broadcast, the national news was aired and in many cases, was presented by an Asian face.
Therefore it would be rather hypocritical to accuse the media of underrepresenting Asians. There’s obviously a variation of their appearance within specific areas yet on the whole, they are certainly not underrepresented.
Take Eastenders. It’s a prime time soap opera with Asians clearly represented. From a Sikh extra walking in the background of shots sporting a turban to the likes of the Masood family who often provide the greatest, timeliest storylines.
It could be argued that there is a specific type of Asian that is always represented yet rather than this being a case of favouritism, I believe it is simply a reflection of society in many cases. For example, some may say that Asians of Indian and Pakistani descent are far more prevalent than Bangladeshi or other South Asian communities. Yet it’s also important to consider that some minorities emigrated from their motherland far earlier than others.
The term ‘Asian community’ is extremely broad and just because we see faces of one Asian country more than another, this does not dilute a clear representation of this particular community.