Back to IndieWire

Hollywood Is ‘Epicenter of Cultural Inequality’ For Women and Minorities, New Report Finds — Girl Talk

Raising your voice is no longer enough.

Ava DuVernay on the set of “Selma”

Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount

Girl Talk is a weekly look at women in film — past, present and future.

A new study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism — a study that is believed to be “the largest intersectional analysis of characters in motion picture content to date” — finds that despite continued chatter and buzz about Hollywood’s grievous need to increase diversity in front of and behind the camera, the industry as a whole “still lags behind population norms.” In short: Hollywood isn’t cutting it. Or, more accurately, Hollywood still isn’t cutting it.

The study, authored by Professor Stacy L. Smith, “examined the 800 top films from 2007 to 2015 (excluding 2011), analyzing 35,205 characters for gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT status and – for the first time – the presence of disability.” By cutting a wide swath across the industry — this is not just a study about women or about minorities or about disabled people, it’s a study about huge sections of the population who more often than not do not appear on screen in a meaningful way — Smith and the Annenberg School have delivered an essential and shocking look at the industry as it stands. And they’re not pleased with the results.

And you shouldn’t be either.

“The findings reveal that Hollywood is an epicenter of cultural inequality,” commented Smith, Founding Director of the MDSC Initiative. “While the voices calling for change have escalated in number and volume, there is little evidence that this has transformed the movies that we see and the people hired to create them. Our reports demonstrate that the problems are pervasive and systemic.”

"Hello, My Name is Doris"

“Hello, My Name is Doris”

Although there’s clearly been an uptick in conversation surrounding the need for greater representation of women and minorities both in front of and behind the camera, this new report shows that, at this point, it’s simply just that: Conversation. What the industry requires is true action, and this new study shows that, at least for the years 2007 to 2015, that still is not happening. Check out some of the most shocking findings below.

Female Characters On Screen

– 31.4% of all speaking characters across the 100 top films from 2015 were female, a figure that has not changed since 2007.

– out of 4,370 speaking or named characters evaluated, 68.6% were male and 31.4% were female across the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, which calculates into a gender ratio of 2.2 male characters to every one female character.

– there has been no meaningful change in the percentage of girls and women on screen between 2007 and 2015.

– of the 100 top films of 2015, 32% depicted a female as the lead or co lead of the unfolding narrative, an 11% increase from last year.

– females were over three times as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing (30.2% vs. 7.7%) and with some nudity (29% vs. 9.5%).

Minority Characters On Screen

– characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were 26.3% of all characters.

– of the top 100 films of 2015, 49 films included no speaking or named Asian or Asian-American characters and 17 featured no Black/African American characters.

– only 14 of the movies depicted an underrepresented lead or co lead. Nine of the leads/co leads were Black, one Latino, and four were mixed race. Not one lead or co lead was played by an Asian actor.

"A United Kingdom"

“A United Kingdom”

20th Century Fox

LGBT Characters On Screen

– LGBT-identified characters represented less than 1% of all speaking characters.

– of the top 100 films of 2015, 82 did not feature a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender character.

– there were no LGBT characters depicted with a disability across the study sample.

– not one lead or co lead was LGBT identified across the entire sample of 100 top films of 2015.

– 82 of the 100 top movies of 2015 did not depict one LGBT speaking or named character.

Disabled Characters On Screen

– characters with disabilities filled a mere 2.4% of all speaking roles.

– of the top 100 films of 2015, 45 films did not include a character with a disability.

– there were no LGBT characters depicted with a disability across the study sample.

Alma Har'el on the set of a Stella Artois commercial

Alma Har’el on the set of a Stella Artois commercial

Alma Har'el

Female Talent Behind the Camera

– female directors were just 4.1% of those hired on the 800 films evaluated.

– women of color were almost absent from these ranks, with just 3 Black or African-American females and 1 Asian female in the director’s chair.

– 0nly 5.5% of the 886 directors examined were Black or African American and 2.8% were Asian or Asian American.

– of the 1,365 directors, writers, and producers of the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, 81% were men and 19% were women.

– of 107 directors, 92.5% were male and 7.5% were female, which translates into a gender ratio of 12.4 male directors to every one female director.

While many of these numbers are unsettling, Smith and the study offer up a number of “simple strategies” for getting to true equality on the big screen. When it comes to something like gender equality, the study even provides a shockingly simple solution to reach gender parity in just three years: Add five female characters to each script. Done.

And that’s not all. While the conversation, buzz, chatter and general outcry for change hasn’t impacted the research at hand, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own crucial message to spread. As Dr. Katherine Pieper, one of the study’s co-authors, commented: “Raised voices and calls for change are important, but so are practical and strategic solutions based on research. The momentum created by activism needs to be matched with realistic tactics for creating change.”

Walk the walk, talk the walk. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Because the world right now? It ain’t cutting it.

You can check out the full press release here, and you can read the full report from USC here.

Get the latest Box Office news! Sign up for our Box Office newsletter here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox