Good news for people irritated by Caitlyn Jenner‘s propensity to say stupid things on TV! A new study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that the news doesn’t much influence public perceptions of trans people. Instead, TV characters have a greater chance to change the public’s hearts and minds.
The study looked at 488 viewers of the USA drama Royal Pains. A June 2015 episode of the series had a storyline involving a teenager transitioning from male to female. The viewers in the study reported a more positive attitude towards trans people and issues.
The number of shows with trans characters also helped. The study showed that the more shows like Transparent or Orange Is the New Black featuring trans characters already watched, the more likely the viewers would be supportive of trans issues. In fact, watching two or more shows with trans stories and characters “reduced the association between viewers’ political ideology and their attitudes toward transgender people by half.”
Though the study was started during the time of Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming out as trans, researchers found the Jenner story had no effect on people’s attitudes.
The researchers were sure to state that this is not the only solution to improve Americans’ attitudes towards trans people. However, they found “nuanced portrayals of transgender individuals – particularly in mainstream forms of entertainment – can break down ideological barriers in a way that news stories may not.”
While political ideology did have an effect on viewers’ attitudes, the researchers added:
“Cumulative exposure across multiple shows had the greatest impact on attitudes, but even a relatively brief storyline had a powerful effect too. While politically conservative viewers were more likely to react with disgust, such reactions were tempered by seeing trans characters on a variety of shows.”
Photo by @LaverneCox