Hollywood’s consistent inability to include actors of colour

Studies reveal that Tinseltown is not projecting the increasing diversity of the US on the silver screen.


Reuters August 05, 2014

LOS ANGELES: A recent study examined the gender and racial makeup of movies and TV shows and the data shows that minorities and women are underrepresented, compared to real-life US demographics, both in front of and behind the camera. Hollywood has not meaningfully increased the number of minority characters on the big screen and Hispanics were the most underrepresented in films, revealed a recent study.

About three-quarters of film characters were white last year, which was in line with annual totals over the previous five years, according to the study, conducted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

But in its evaluation of 3,932 speaking characters in 100 films from last year, researchers determined that 5 percent of characters on screen were Hispanics compared with 17.1 per cent of the U.S. population in 2013, according to government figures.

“Hispanics and Latinos are one of the fastest-growing groups in the US,” Marc Choueiti, an author of the study, said in a statement. “If popular films were the only way to gauge diversity, viewers would be completely unaware of this. Individuals from this group are almost invisible on screen.”

Furthermore, the study found that Hispanic men and women were the most exposed group in Hollywood, with 37.5 per cent of female characters shown in promiscuous characters, and 16.5 per cent of males portrayed in revealing or tight clothing.

Black actors fared better, the study found, with 14.1 per cent of the speaking parts. Blacks make up 13.2 percent of the US population.

But only five of the 107 directors credited in the movies examined were black, the study found. Black directors, who were all male, were also more likely to direct black actors.

Minority-directed films, however, scored big at this year’s Oscar awards with 12 Years a Slave, a film by Steve McQueen, who became the first black director to win the Best Picture honour. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron took home the best director award for his outer space drama Gravity.

The study faulted Hollywood for not changing the representation of minorities in line with demographic changes in the United States, where nearly half of children younger than five are not white.

“Despite the demographic changes at work in the US, films still portray a homogenised picture of the world,” the study said, adding that the findings “illustrate how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2014.

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COMMENTS (1)

Parvez | 6 years ago | Reply

Why make an issue of what obviously is a non-issue........this medium is the performing arts where merit and ability prevail. The mindset of the 50's is no more and playing with statistics to show otherwise is shallow.

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