Hollywood Projects Stunning Lack of Diversity

By Sheryl Estrada


It’s not a news flash that major Hollywood films lack diverse characters.The acting nominees for this year’sAcademy Awards were solely white actors and actresses.

However, more jarring evidence has been revealed. The study “Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Character Gender, Race and LGBT Status” exposes that women only have 30.2 percent of the 30,835 speaking characters in top-grossing films in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014.

The University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity and Social Change (MDSC) Initiative, which conducted the study, has focused on analyzing the most popular movies in recent years. In the latest report, 700 high-grossing films from 2007 to 2014, which includes more than 30,000 speaking characters, were analyzed.

MDSC researchers sent a tweet on Thursday to writer and feminist organizerGloria Steinem and actress and activist Jane Fonda with a graphic titled, “Females Are Noticeably Absent in Film.”

Researchers found popular movies “distort the demographic reality of their audience.”

“Film characters are overwhelmingly white and male, despite both population statistics and viewing patterns,” researchers said.

In the top 100 films of 2014, 73.1 percent of all the speaking or named characters are white. Only 19 percent are lesbian, gay or bisexual, and not one transgender character was portrayed.

According to the researchers, “Clearly, Hollywood is substantially under indexing on inclusive portrayals of the LGBT community.”

In 2014, the majority ofdiverse speaking characters in an animated film appeared in TheBookofLife.

Based on the 2013 census, Latinos comprise 17.1 percent of the population. Yet only 4.9 percent of speaking or named characters are Latino in the top 100 films. Seventeen of the films have no Black speaking characters, and more than 40 films have no Asian speaking characters.

In fact, Blacks, Latinos and Asians who lend their voices as animated characters have a better opportunity to be heard. Researchers note that in top animated films, there was a 25.4 percent increase in underrepresented speaking characters in 2014 compared to 2007.Apparently, it’s easier for an underrepresented person to be casted in a major film when they are not seen on screen.

Number one top-grossing feature films in the U.S. 2007-2014

YearFilm
2007Spider-Man 3
2008The Dark Knight
2009Avatar
2010Toy Story 3
2011Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
2012The Avengers
2013The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2014American Sniper

Source: IMDb

The only exception to a white male lead character in the highest-grossing films during the time period of the study was in 2013. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with a female lead character, earned $425 million, edging out Iron Man 3, which earned $409 million.

Women and Ageism: Characters over the age of 40 are mostly men. Across 700 films, a total of 9,522 characters were coded between 40 to 64 years of age. Lessthan 21.8 percent ofthesecharacterswerewomen. The percentage of female speaking characters in that age group has not increased from 2007 to 2014. In 2014, no female actors over 45 years of age performed a lead or co-lead role.

Sexualization: The three appearance-based indicators measured were sexualized attire, some nudity and being referenced as physically attractive. No differences appeared on sexy attire or nudity when comparing 2007 to 2014. A 5.9 percent decline in the proportion of females referenced as physically attractive occurred.

However, females aged 13-20 were just as likely to be shown in sexy attire, with exposed skin and referenced to as attractive, in the 100 top films of 2014 as females aged 21-39.

Male sexualization is dramatically lower than for females. In 2014, 27.9 percent of females wore sexualized attire, compared to only 8 percent of males.

Behind the Camera: Across the 100 top films of 2014, only 15.8 percent of content creators working as producers, directors and writers were women.

DirectorsWritersProducers
Women1.9 percent11.2 percent18.9 percent

“Put differently, only two women directed across the 100 top films of 2014,” researchers said.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed grievances with California-state and federal agencies in May requesting investigations into “the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry.”

Only 45 Black directors (5.8 percent) have been attached to the 700 top-grossing films and just 19 (2.4 percent) Asian directors.

Consumers are diverse and seek diverse content created with the contributions of diverse talent.

In March, The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA released the report “2015 Hollywood Diversity Report: Flipping the Script,” which makes a correlation between diversity and revenue in Tinseltown. Business as usual “may soon be unsustainable” as “diversity sells.”

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