A new report from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism finds that the representation of women, minorities, LGBT people, disabled characters in films remains largely unchanged from the previous year, despite the heightened and attention to diversity in Hollywood. At the bottom of the rung and most egregiously disproportionate to their U.S. demographics are women, Hispanics and disabled characters. Exclusion, the report says, is the norm in Hollywood, not the exception.
For nine years since 2007, USC has analyzed the demographic makeup of every speaking or named character from each year’s 100 highest-grossing films at the domestic box office (with the exception of 2011), as well as behind-the-camera employment for those films including directors, producers and composers.
“Every year we’re hopeful that we will actually see change,” Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and the study’s lead author, told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately that hope has not quite been realized.”
Women remain vastly underrepresented when it comes to both speaking roles and lead or co-leading parts in films. Of the 4,583 speaking characters analyzed from the top 100 films of 2016, 31.4 percent were female, a number that is basically unchanged since 2007. Also, only 34 of the films depicted a female lead or co-lead — and only three of those were from underrepresented groups.
“We see a real stalling out,” Smith said.
In terms of race and ethnicity, the landscape remains largely white, with Hispanics grossly underrepresented compared to the breakdown of the U.S. population. Of the speaking characters surveyed: 70.8 percent were white; 13.6 percent black; 5.7 percent Asian; 3.1 percent Hispanic; and less than 1 percent American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. According to the latest U.S. Census, the nation is 61.3 percent white, 17.8 percent Hispanic, 5.7 percent Asian, 13.3 percent black, 1.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native and 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian.
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