Hollywood still officially sucks at diversity, according to a new study
Over the past few years, it’s at least seemed like the entertainment industry has become more diverse. The Star Wars universe has become more inclusive, and movies like Moonlight and Hidden Figures met huge critical success. But despite these small victories, a new study shows that Hollywood is still way behind when it comes to minority representation.
A July 2018 report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examined the cast and crew lists of 1,100 movies released between 2007 and 2017. And the findings were depressing. In the 10 years studied, the number of female characters barely increased. In 2017, only 31.8% of onscreen characters were female—a 1.9% difference from 2007. And out of 2017’s top 100 films, there were only four leads who were women of color. Women over 45 years old were also much less likely to make an appearance in a movie compared to men in the same age cohort.
Things are just as bad for people of color. The study noted that although racial minorities make up 38.7% of the U.S. population, only 29.3% of speaking roles in the 1,100 movies were characters of color. And because the study only examined characters’ races, it doesn’t even account for the fact that in some cases, minorities were portrayed by white actors, like when Emma Stone played a woman of Asian descent in 2015’s Aloha.
The study also found than only 0.7% of characters in the 1,100 films studied represented the LGBTQ+ community. Out of those, more than half were gay men. The researchers also noted that there has been just one transgender character in the 400 most popular movies between 2014 and 2017.
As for people with disabilities, they were only represented in 2.5% of characters, most of whom were white and played by non-disabled actors.
Behind the camera, white men still overwhelmingly dominate, with only 4.3% of the 1,100 movies directed by a woman, 5.2% helmed by a black director, and 3.1% directed by an Asian American.
So, what can Hollywood do to be better?
As Frances McDormand noted in her Best Actress acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards, white actors can help by adding “inclusion riders” to their contracts. Likewise, Stacy L. Smith, the Initiative’s founding director, told The Hollywood Reporter that increasing diversity in Hollywood comes down to consciously setting inclusion goals.
"The most important thing is not thinking about this as storytelling," Smith told THR, adding, "These are hiring decisions."
Clearly, the fight for equal representation in Hollywood is far from over. We look forward to a day when the characters onscreen look like the people who make up America.