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Hollywood is still under-representing all groups that aren’t able-bodied white men


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A recent study has highlighted the lack of equal representation for women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled people in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera.

The report, conducted by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of California’s Annenberg School for Journalism & Communication, examined the inequality of 700 popular films from 2007 to 2014 (excluding 2011). They assessed all speaking or named characters “for demographics, domestic traits, and hypersexualization.” Then, they looked behind the camera at the gender and races of directors, writers and producers of the films studied.

The report’s findings showcase precisely how unequal representation is in popular films, with white men still significantly dominating.

Of the 30,835 speaking characters looked at over 700 films, only 30.2% are female. A mere 11% of the films had “gender-balanced casts or featured girls/ women in roughly half (45-54.9%) of the speaking roles”.

Looking at 2014, only 21 of 100 films had a female lead or equal co-lead. Only 3 of these women were of a racial minority and none were LGBT nor over the age of 45.

Women are highly underrepresented in animated and action movies, making up only less than a quarter in both genres. They made up about 34% of characters of comedies in 2014.

Females of any age “were more likely to be shown in sexy attire (27.9% of females vs. 8% of males), with some nudity (26.4% of females vs. 9.1% of males) and referenced as physically attractive (12.6% of females vs. 3.1% of males).”

Additionally, female teens are just as likely as young adult females to be sexualized, but middle aged women were less likely than both of the groups.

Women made up 1.9% of the directors, 11.2% of the writers and 18.9% of the directors across the 700 films. Of the 779 total directors, there were only 28 women (only 3 of which were African American).

 In addition, of all the characters of the top films of 2014, “73.1% were White, 4.9% were Hispanic/Latino, 12.5% were Black, 5.3% were Asian, 2.9% were Middle Eastern, 1% were American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, and 1.2% were from ‘other’ racial and/or ethnic groupings.” This remained fairly consistent from 2007 and on.

In 2014, only 17 out of 100 lead or co lead roles were from “an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic group.” Three additional films consisted of an ensemble cast in which at least 50% were of ethnic minorities.

Just about a quarter of the characters in both action and comedy films are of underrepresented racial groups; this remained consistent through the 7 years studied.

However, there has been a 24.5% increase within animated films.

For each year of the study, there are about 17 of 100 films that do not feature a speaking black character at all and over 40 each year that do not feature a speaking Asian character.

In 2014, 5 of the 107 directors were black—this is less than 5%. One of these 5 was female. Of all 700 films, only 45 directors were black, 5.8%.

The percentage of Asian directors of the 700 films is 2.4%. Only one was female and was listed as a co-director.

 Morevover, of the 4,610 speaking characters of 2014, only 19 were lesbian, gay or bisexual and none were transgender. This was across 14 films and none were animated.

Of these 19 characters, 63.2% were male and 36.8% were female, while 84.2% were white.

Among these characters, “depictions of healthy romantic/sexual relationships were scarce,” with only two being shown in a public and stable long term relationship. Additionally, none of these characters were depicted as parents and “a handful” were shown as “concealing their sexuality".

The study concludes by emphasizing that popular cinema “remains skewed and stereotypical” and blatantly contradicts “population statistics and viewing patterns.”

The report notes that some progress seems to be happening from what we have seen 2015 and onward, stating:  “Five female directors have helmed films that made over $25 million in the first half of 2015, which should put them all in the 100 top films this year. This is greater than the number of female directors of the 100 top films of 2013 and 2014.

“Diversity has also proven to be a draw at the box office, with films like Furious 7 earning over $1 billion worldwide”.

Finally, they emphasize that while these statistics seem encouraging, there are still “long-term solutions and further monitoring” is required to see Hollywood “move from an industry of inequality to one of inclusion.”

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