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 despite recent demands for inclusion, women, minorities, LGBT+ and disabled people remain underrepresented in Hollywood.
Since 2007, the Annenberg School has kept note of the demographic makeup of those in front of and behind the camera of each year’s 100 highest-grossing films at the domestic box office (excluding 2011). Of the 4,583 speaking characters noted from the top 100 films of 2016, 31.4 percent were women. In addition, of the 34 films that depicted a female lead or co-lead, only three of those were minority women.
“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.”
The same lack of progression persists in racial demographics. Of the speaking characters analyzed, 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. However, these numbers are not representative of the latest U.S. Census which reports that 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.
“We can’t just talk about females in film anymore. What our data shows most powerfully this year over any other year is the real epidemic of intersectional invisibility in film,” said Smith. He went on, “If you cross gender with race and ethnicity, you see that the bottom really drops out for females of color on screen.”
That “invisibility” is apparent in the findings that 25 of the 100 films did not feature any Black characters in a speaking role, 54 films had no Hispanic characters and 44 had no Asian characters. The numbers are even more staggering when you consider gender. 47 films featured no Black women, 66 had no Asian women and 72 had no Hispanic women.
The recent success of minority and women centered films such as “Get Out” and “Girls Trip” show slow, but serious progression in diversifying Hollywood. However, until more than one minority is in the spotlight (and that spotlight isn’t fleeting), the film industry still has a lot more work to do.