Media Representation of Race and Ethnicity: A Case Study of Select Episodes of the Kenyan XYZ Show, Season 12
This article examined media representations of ethnicity and race in the Kenyan political satire show, XYZ. The show depicts political characters in satirical form. Seven episodes of season 12 of the show were randomly selected and analysed to examine how ethnicity and race were depicted. Season 12 was chosen because its screening coincided with the electioneering period in Kenya, when negative ethnicity escalated as political campaigns gained momentum. The study employed a qualitative research design. Four focus group discussions were held with university communication students to get their views on media representation of ethnicity by the XYZ show. The study sought to find out which Kenyan ethnic groups were represented in the selected episodes, how the groups were represented, the dominant ethnic frames that were used, and the views of selected research participants on the media representation of ethnicity in the show. One of the findings was that Kenya’s most populous ethnic groups – the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya and Kamba were overrepresented in the seven episodes, while other ethnic groups were underrepresented. Another was that, the ethnic groups represented in the show through the political characters were portrayed in a stereotypical and negative manner. In addition, ethnicity of the various groups was depicted through vernacular accents, dressing, and stereotypes. Findings further indicated that the media representation of the various ethnic groups in the selected XYZ shows did not reflect the reality. However, race was not a major representation in the selected XYZ shows. The conclusion was that Kenyan media need to rethink their emphasis of ethnic stereotypes as a major source of comedy, given the likelihood that such frames have slowly gained acceptance as reality and are used as a political weapon by politicians seeking power (wa Wamwere, 2003). A major problem with frames as seen in the findings is that they are “persistent and perpetual” (Carter, 2013, p.11) but have very little reality. Entrenchment of these ethnic frames through media is therefore, a danger to the national cohesiveness of countries such as Kenya.
Key Words: Portrayal, media representation, media framing, ethnicity, stereotype