UCLA released its annual Hollywood diversity report, and the findings are disappointing
By now, it almost seems redundant to talk about how Hollywood still lacks diversity. Even though women and people of color have starred in several big-budget films over the past few years—from Wonder Woman to Black Panther to Crazy Rich Asians—movies still overwhelmingly feature very white, very male casts. And a new report from UCLA just confirmed that there’s still a long way to go until we have equal representation in film and on television.
The UCLA College Division of Social Science published its 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report on February 21st (the department is now in its sixth year of publishing these findings). To reach their conclusions, researchers examined the demographics of jobs in the top 200 movies of 2017, as well as 1,316 TV shows (broadcast, digital, and cable) that aired during the 2016-2017 season.
"My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film," Dr. Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA told Variety. "And all areas still have a long way to go."
According to the report, people of color only lost ground in one of 12 categories: digital reality. But the news still isn’t great. Nonwhite actors portrayed 19.8% of leading roles in 2017 films. That’s an improvement from 2016, but it’s underwhelming considering that almost 40% of Americans are people of color. TV leads were slightly more diverse, with 21-22% of roles going to people of color across all platforms. Behind the camera, diversity was even worse, with people of color making up only 12.6% of movie directors and 7.8% of film writers. For TV, digital scripted shows had the largest number of nonwhite creators at a disappointing 16.5%.
Women, meanwhile, made gains in seven of the 12 categories. Even so, they remained underrepresented both on-and-off-screen. In 2017, women made up only 32.9% of film leads, 12.6% of film directors, and 12.6% of film writers. On TV, digital scripted programming had the largest proportion of female leads (42.8%) and female creators (34.8%). The report also found that diverse TV shows and movies do better. Shows with casts made up of 31-40% nonwhite actors had the highest ratings, and out of 2017’s top films, movies that had casts of 31-40% nonwhite actors made the most money.
In a UCLA press release, Hunt called for film and TV executives to increase representation.
"Every year the data have shown that film and television content that feature diverse casts typically make more money and enjoy higher ratings and audience engagement," he said. "We feel confident our partners in Hollywood today see the value of diversity in ways that they did not before we began sharing our report."
The bottom line is that we need better representation in the media we consume. Audiences clearly want it too, so what’s the hold up?