For many years, the Roma community in Ukraine has faced numerous problems, including discrimination and mariginalization. The media is one of the ways of influencing public attitudes, which in one way or another create, support or break stereotypes. Despite the fact that the Roma are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Ukraine (according to data, around 200-400 thousand people), they remain underrepresented on television and are often portrayed in a stereotypical way. TV shows and entertainment programs feature occasional references to the Roma, and in some cases representatives of the community even become the main characters. The Djanes journalists have monitored the programs that have been broadcast on national TV channels over the last years and have noticed a certain pattern in the representation of the community.
“People of means”
TV shows that call attention to Roma cuisine are not often seen on television. In the cookery show “Master Chief” special attention was paid to the cooking of national dishes. There was a task in “MasterChef 12. Battle of the Seasons” to “Cook the dishes for a gypsy wedding”. The competition itself has evoked a lot of emotions among the cooks. Timecode: 9:40.
The competition may be confusing for members of the Roma community. Meanwhile interviews with the participants are accompanied by images that openly stereotype the Roma and their appearance. Quote: “Gypsies – are people of means. Barons, they wear shirts with big collars, gold chains, all their fingers in rings, long beards and slicked back haircut”. Timecodeу: 9:56. In general, there is no negativity or deliberate discrimination against Roma from the participants or judges. Although, while watching, you may feel the inferiority of Roma cuisine compared to other restaurant dishes.
The use of the ethnonym “Gypsies” is considered offensive because of its negative connotations, so representatives of the community officially approved the self-name “Roma people” during a congress in London. A series of photographs shown on the air emphasizes stereotypes about their appearance. Today’s Roma are mostly assimilated, and among them you will hardly find such a concept as “baron”. Interestingly, the contest also required cooking Scandinavian dishes, but we did not see a single photo of Scandinavians. In general, the participants and judges did not express any negativity or deliberate discrimination against Roma.
A large family of 10 children was invited to the studio of the “Один за всіх” program. Most of the family does not have documents and dwelling, and children do not attend school. In the first minutes the social worker dealing with this case saying that it was a Roma family: “Practically all people are of Roma nationality… they rarely have documents”. Timecode: 4:55. Within an hour, a detailed analysis of the situation takes place in the studio in the presence of the main character. The audience learns that the family was once discriminated against by the inhabitants of the villages who did not want to live next to the Roma.
The family lost their home and spent many years on the streets until they were brought to the attention of the community and social services. The program reveals the problem of passporting people who do not have a birth certificate, discrimination against Roma and low level of education.
“Sort of traditions”
The popular Ukrainian talk show “Хата на тата” often highlights the “property” of patriarchal society in Ukrainian families. The heroes of the talk show are dads who leave all household chores for their wives, depreciating their work. One of the episodes of the 10th season was dedicated to the Isaienko Roma family. Dad is a musician who devotes all his time to creativity. At the same time, the mother works hard at home and helps with the family business. This is being justified by Roma traditions and the audience gets the impression that this is a common thing, not an exception to the rules. Sexist phrases such as “women are supposed to do household chores”, “to be submissive”, “it’s well-known” are heard several times by both the main character and his wife. Timecode: 5:20.
There are a lot of positive comments, because there are often stereotypes in society about poverty and the immoral way of life of the community: “There are also good Roma families”, “It turns out that not everyone steals“, “Such nice people”. It can be assumed that the positive perception by the audience shows the maximum ignorance of the general situation in the life of the Roma and even the material that clearly demonstrates stereotypes does not cause strong negativity.
Apparently, the editors wanted to add some “bright features” to the show. However, it is difficult not to notice the number of household stereotypes that are present in both parts of the show. The video begins with moments with horses and campfire, and according to the script the main character steals a chicken from a neighbor and everyone constantly calls each other “gypsies”. Timecode: 0:34; 01:29:07.
In the episodes of the popular comedy show “Ліга сміху” you can find jokes dedicated to quite sensitive topics. In one of the performances was noticed a common stereotype that is often used to scare children: — “ Gypsies have kidnapped”. In the middle of the performance, an improvised group appears on stage with women in wide skirts that vaguely resemble a theatrical Roma costume. At the end of the song, the main character is a Roma who kidnaps one of the hosts, after the group disappears from the stage. Then the comedians are joking “-What’s happened? – Gypsies have kidnapped the child. – Surprisingly not me. –And why did they have you?- Cuz I’m a handsome horse. Neigh-neigh”. Timecode: 11:45.
The presence of Roma in various shows on television is important. After all, it is the opportunity to notice those who live very close by, as well as to pay attention to problems and common assets. People who create content should make more efforts so that hate speech does not have a place on national television during the two hours of airtime. The use of stereotypical video and photo series is still widespread, for example – horses, campfire, women in bright skirts wearing bandana scarves. The avoidance of ethnicities in talk shows are almost ignored, even whether this information allows the viewer to confirm that all Roma have no documents or school attendance. The main problem that goes without saying is the lack of sufficient information about the Roma community. This is what turns a positive trend and cultural curiosity into ignorance and frequent indulgence of stereotypes.