In the aftermath of #OscarsSoWhite, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is launching an initiative aimed at improving diversity across the entertainment industry. The underrepresentation of women and racial minority groups among this year’s Oscar nominees didn’t quite shock Annenberg researchers. For years, they’ve been studying who works behind the scenes and in front of the camera in Hollywood — and who doesn’t. A predominantly white and male crop of Oscar nominees is consistent with their findings: The entertainment industry is seriously lagging when it comes to diversity.
This new endeavor “will
rate and reward media companies based on how inclusive they are,” according to a press release announcing the project. “The ratings
will study the content media companies produce — and also the diversity within
their internal ranks. The USC Annenberg Comprehensive
Analysis and Report on Diversity (CARD) will serve as Hollywood’s diversity ‘report card,’ charting how the major entertainment players fare when it comes
to hiring, casting, and content.” We are, of course, not anticipating straight A’s anytime soon.
Researchers will examine the chain of command at major media companies in order to analyze diversity in executive suite decision-making. Onscreen diversity in film, TV, and digital platforms will be assessed and graded on the basis of such markers as gender, race/ethnicity, and LGBT representation.
The analyses will be overseen by the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg. Headed by Professor Stacy L. Smith, the MDSC, which is comprised of over 100 research scientists and university students, performs annual studies of diversity across media content. Previous findings from MDSC research have revealed that girls and females account for only one-third of all speaking characters in popular films, despite the fact that they represent, of course, half of the population. Sadly, this statistic has remained the same for decades. Also, across 600 popular films between 2007 and 2013, only two were directed by black women.
not one group or one company is solely responsible for the lack of diversity
on-screen or behind the camera,” noted Dr. Smith” “We need a broader look at who is doing well, and
who needs to step up their game. The USC Annenberg CARD will do just that.” In an exchange with Women and Hollywood, she elaborated, “By looking across media within companies, as well as at the content they produce and distribute, we will get a clearer picture of where women and people of color are missing from the media ecosystem. The USC Annenberg CARD will also illuminate where activists may need to target their efforts to leverage social change.”
Dr. Smith notes that a major addition to the CARD is “measuring LGBT representation in film, television, and digital content. By looking across gender, race/ethnicity, and LGBT portrayals, we can paint a picture of who is seen more broadly in the media and who is being left out.”
Annenberg also has plans to acknowledge and celebrate those who are working towards changing the tide. (Shonda Rhimes should clear her calendar to pick up a few more prizes.) The center will be seeking out nominations for “individuals who have meaningfully contributed as leaders to diversity in entertainment,” with plans to honor them in 2016. As Katherine Piper, a research scientist in the MDSC Initiative, shared with us, “The USC Annenberg CARD will enable us to take a closer look at who is in decision-making roles, where diversity might be thriving, and where it has stalled out. Companies may be doing well on one media platform but not on another.”