According to a new study from Fuse Media  ̶  a Latino owned, multicultural focused, multiplatform entertainment company  ̶  Millennials and Gen Zers believe the media is responsible for the divisiveness afflicting the country by failing to represent  ̶  or by misrepresenting  ̶  people of color, and that the media now has an obligation to help fix the divide.

Media plays a large role in the lives of Gen Zers and Millennials and they believe it has an impact on society:

·  82% say that media shapes the way the world is viewed

·  81% feel that media shapes the way they view and value themselves and others

·  73% believe that media influences how people perceive and treat others

With this power to influence society, 82% of Gen Zers and Millennials believe that media has an obligation to be empowering (+20% more likely to strongly agree than Gen Xers).

Why does representation matter? 

Both lack of representation and mis-representation make Gen Zers and Millennials feel a range of negative emotions.

54% of Gen Zers and Millennials feel that they often/always see their culture represented in media.  When it comes to people of color within these generations, the majority do not feel this way (57% feel that their culture is never/rarely/sometimes represented in media).

This lack of representation has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves – it leads to feelings of being Disconnected, Excluded, Insignificant, Shameful and Disenfranchised.  These emotions are felt the strongest among the Hispanic community.


Hispanics P16-38

White P16-38

African-American P16-38

Disconnected from American Society




































* When Hispanic percentage is statistically significantly higher than the other percentages

For example, when talking about the lack of Latino or Latina superheroes in media and entertainment, one of those interviewed for this study, Robert, age 26 from Los Angeles, says: “I think for young Latino children in America… they kind of feel left out and they don’t get to see themselves in that role, as the hero or as powerful.”

When asked how included they feel in American society, slightly less than half of Gen Zers and Millennials actually feel included (46%).  These feelings of not being included increase among younger cohorts (only 23% of Gen Z vs. 13% of millennials and 13% of Gen X), and intensifies among Black Gen Zers (27%).

Additionally, 42% of these young people  ̶  and 55% of respondents that are people of color  ̶  feel that when represented, their culture is often or always mis-represented, for example, via stereotypical portrayals on television.  Seeing their culture represented in a negative light also leads to a similar, yet different range of emotions.  Along with feeling Frustrated, Excluded and Disconnected, young adults feel Angry and Shameful.

The combination of lack of representation and mis-representation results in Gen Zers and Millennials feeling lost and trying to find their place in society.  People of color, and especially Hispanics, say they feel excluded from American society, often misunderstood, judged based on stereotypes, not welcome, and struggle to find their identity.

My experiences as not feeling included in American society Non-White P1638 Black P1638 Hispanic P1638
I am often misunderstood 78% 74% 81%
I am judged based on stereotypes 82% 71% 90%
I do not feel welcomed 76% 74% 81%
I am made to feel like I am different by my appearance, accent, or the way that I act 74% 65% 86%
I struggle to find my identity in America 70% 55% 80%

According to the study, 87% of Gen Zers and millennials feel that being represented accurately is important. People of color are 15% more likely than their White counterparts to feel this sentiment.  It is important to them to see accurate representation for the following reasons:

It is important to see myself reflected in media because P16-38
TV shapes the way we view and value ourselves and others 75%
It matters to see myself 74%
My voice is heard 72%
It makes me feel included into American society 71%
It’s an opportunity to start a dialogue with people who are unfamiliar with my culture 70%
TV influences how people perceive and treat me 70%

When Gen Zers and Millennials see their culture represented accurately on the screen, it makes them feel Happy, Included, Understood, Accepted and Connected.  Accurate representation evokes the most, and strongest, positive emotions for Hispanics as it makes them feel as if they are making progress assimilating into American culture.  However, Black Gen Zers and millennials’ emotions only pertain to that moment without influencing their overall outlook on how they are usually treated.

Since portrayals in media have direct influence on how individuals feel and treat themselves and others, Gen Zers and Millennials strongly feel that media has a responsibility to unify society, and that media needs to be empowering.  In fact, 2 in 3 young adults purposely seek out empowering content.  This sentiment is stronger among people of color (+13% more likely than their White counterparts).

“While there has been plenty of discussion lately about lack of representation and misrepresentation, rarely has anyone looked underneath the hood to unpack what the impact of not seeing yourself reflected on screen really has on a person,” said Fuse Media Head of Research Michelle Auguste. “This study shows that the way they are portrayed  ̶  or not portrayed – in media can have a harmful effect on young people’s psyches.  Not only does it influence how they feel about themselves, but it also plays a role in how others perceive them and their culture. This lack of understanding, empathy and compassion for others is the root for the division in our country.”

What actually makes content empowering?  

When presented with a series of scenarios and asked if they found them to be somewhat or very empowering:

·  70% of Gen Zers and Millennials felt that a cast with an even mix of ethnicities and races is empowering;

·  67% view a storyline and cast representing underrepresented communities was as empowering; and

·  65% say a show with a lead character from a marginalized community is empowering.

Overall, the consensus of those surveyed was that all marginalized groups are underrepresented, with people with disabilities being the number one group in need of more representation (noted 39% of Gen Zers and Millennials), while White men and women ranked last (11%). Gen Zers believe all marginalized groups across the board should have more representation.  For brands and media looking to reach this younger cohort, intersectionality in content increases chances of relatability, and therefore positive emotions around empowerment:

Also, according to the study, young people will actively support media companies that showcase content that accurately represents and therefore empowers different cultures.

Of course, this also works in the reverse, so it is imperative not to misrepresent.  For example, when they feel their cultures are misrepresented on a show:

Added Fuse Media CEO Miguel Roggero, “As we have done for the past several years, our new thought-leadership studies continue to uncover new insights that inform our overall strategy and provide our brand partners with insights to authentically reach our important audience. From content development to brand partnerships, this study validates our mission and commitment to authentically showcase storytelling that is representative of, and empowers, underserved audiences.”

Fuse Media’s fifth annual Fuse Multicultural Insider study, entitled “Establishing an Emotional Connection Through Empowerment,” looked at the emotions that empowerment and representation evoke among Millennials and Gen Zers.  Previous results from this study, focused on the impact of these emotions on connecting with these young consumers, were announced in April.


The study combined in-depth qualitative interviews with a comprehensive quantitative online survey.  The interviews were conducted over Zoom with 12 thought-leaders in New York, California, Illinois, Georgia, Texas, Michigan and Virginia, recruited to discuss their ideology surrounding empowerment, culture, representation in media and content.  The quantitative survey was used to build off of the insights uncovered in the interviews to construct and validate key strategies for establishing an emotional connection with this target audience.  Among the 1710 respondents, 379 were Generation Z (ages 16-24), 827 Millennials (25-38) and 504 Generation X (39-54).