Survivor, Island of the Invisible Asians
A Quantitative Analysis of Asian Representation vs. Visibility in CBS's Hit Reality Television Program
Keywords:contestant-to-camera speaking time, representation, Survivor, visibility
This study intended to explore Asian visibility, measured in contestant-to-camera speaking time, in comparison to representation in the three most recent seasons of CBS's reality television program Survivor. Previous literature indicated a disparity in appearance time between Asian and White television characters on primetime programs, although no studies delved into reality television nor measured contestant-to-camera speaking time. This study utilized a quantitative content analysis method to collect speaking time values for each of the 58 contestants across seasons 37 through 39, as well as a correlational method to compile and average these values based on each contestant's racial identity. The results indicated an apparent difference in average speaking time between Asian and White contestants. Although Survivor represents only one program, and the results are only applicable to the three seasons analyzed, the disparity speaks to the larger issue of Asian invisibility in other forms of media and the real world. It is apparent that television producers have a more substantial impact on television narratives and contestants' visibility than directly observable. An equally allotted amount of content in future seasons of Survivor would allow viewers to better understand the struggles and experiences of Asian contestants. In order to expand on the complexity and ubiquity of the issue, it would be ideal for future research to explore whether or not the same Asian-White visibility disparity exists within earlier Survivor seasons as well as other reality television programs.
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