When Hollywood is taken to task for the lack of diversity in high-profile films, decision-makers’ responses tend to boil down to the idea that they’re actually giving audiences what they want. Movies led by familiar (usually meaning white) faces are the most profitable, they argue, hence the casting of Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell” and Tilda Swinton in “Doctor Strange.” That reasoning has always felt circular — lack of opportunity tends to lead to lack of success — and new data suggests that it’s statistically inaccurate as well. The Atlantic is reporting on the findings of two professors whose study shows that moviegoers not only don’t ignore films with diverse casts, they often turn out in greater numbers to see them.
Venkat Kuppuswamy and Peter Younkin, professors who teach in the business schools of the University of North Carolina and McGill University, respectively, looked through 723 movies that went into wide release between 2011 and 2015, confirming what most already know: White actors dominate mainstream Hollywood. Nearly two-thirds of these films featured no black actors in lead roles, 23% featured one and only 11% featured two or more. Kuppuswamy and Younkin also found that the 23% did as well financially as movies with no black actors, while the 11% actually outperformed them.
There’s plenty of other data worth parsing through in the original story. Most damning of all, however, is the professors’ conclusion that “Persistent discrimination in Hollywood can not be attributed to the preferences of the consumer, but must instead rest at the feet of the employer.”
For more, watch the “Doctor Strange” trailer:
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