Hollywood may love talking about the power of diversity, the uptick in attention paid to movements like Time’s Up and #MeToo, and how things are changing on the big screen, but the numbers tell a very different story. In short: talk is cheap.
Deadline reports that that latest study from Professor Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, finds “that on-screen progress toward inclusion remains to be seen in popular movies with regard to females, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community, and individuals with disabilities.”
The latest study from Smith and her Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examined over 48,000 characters from the 1,100 “top films” from 2007 to 2017 (by Smith’s metrics, the top 100 movies at the domestic box office for each calendar year, the majority of which are studio movies). The study notes that “female speaking characters on screen filled just 30.6% of all roles across the 11-year time frame while less than 1% of all characters were from the LGBT community.”
“Those expecting a banner year for inclusion will be disappointed,” said Smith, Founding Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in an official statement. “Hollywood has yet to move from talking about inclusion to meaningfully increasing on-screen representation for women, people of color, the LGBT community, or individuals with disabilities.”
Smith and her initiative also used what they call an “invisibility analysis” to see which films are “missing” female characters from various groups, including making note of films that did not include African-American or Latina women, or transgender women. As Deadline notes, “Across 400 films from 2014 to 2017, only one transgender character appeared on screen.”
Looking closer at 2017, a year in which conversations about the need and desire for diversity seemed to be at its most visible, shows little progress. Deadline reports, “33 of 2017’s 100 top films had a female in a leading or co- leading role. Four of these females were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. These findings represent no change from 2016, claims the study.”
The study also examined the breakdown of women and minorities behind the camera, too. It found that “across 1,223 directors over 11 years, only 4.3% were female, 5.2% were Black or African American and 3.1% were Asian or Asian American.”
“Once again, we see that women of color are most affected by exclusionary hiring practices. Just four Black/African American women, three Asian women, and one Latina directed a film across the 1,100 we examined,” Smith said.
She added, “After witnessing little change in these numbers, it is clear that Hollywood must do more to ensure that marginalized groups are a part of the fabric of storytelling. Good intentions are not enough to create change. Hollywood needs tangible, actionable solutions that will usher in real transformation. Our work brings to light the steps that companies and individuals can take if they want to see results.”
Last March, Smith and her team dug into “the prevalence and portrayal of child and teen female characters in film,” and while were are some bright spots in the study — which examined 900 top films from 2007 to 2016 (excluding 2011), analyzing 4,730 younger characters for demographics, disability, and hyper sexualization — including parity amongst the genders, there were also a number of disheartening findings, many of them related to the depiction and representation of female characters from racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community, or with disabilities. You can read more about that study here.