A new study conducted at USC Annenberg revealed some disappointing, but not surprising stats in regards to our country’s media.
In a nutshell, the study showed that the number of women, non-white individuals, people with disabilities, and LGBT actors represented is alarmingly slim. And even worse, the numbers haven’t improved since 2007.
In terms of process, Deadline reports that the researchers analyzed “the 900 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2016 (excluding 2011), analyzing 39,788 characters for gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT status, and disability. The top 100 grossers of 2016 were included in the analysis.”
The study found that speaking roles for women comprised less than 1/3 of the total roles. Additionally, Hispanic, African American, Asian, or mixed race actors (male and female) only received 29% of speaking roles in total in the films studied. As for LGBT characters, they only popped up in 1.1% of movies in 2016. And only 2.7% of characters had disabilities.
Now, I am no math expert, but those percentages all seem extremely low. Actually, they are embarrassingly low. We should genuinely be embarrassed that our nation’s movies, i.e. important symbols of our popular culture, so inaccurately and minimally represent our people. We’ve allowed this to happen by spending money on movies that focus on straight, white, able-bodied characters.
I’m not trying to preach here, I am 100% guilty of it too. But these statistics are not reflective of the population at all, and sends the wrong message. But things probably won’t change unless we force them to. We need to hold ourselves, and Hollywood, accountable.
Gina Rodriguez, a fierce advocate for representation, recently spoke to this. She advised her fellow Latinos,
“In this industry, money talks more than anything. If you do not see yourself and your community in the ways that you want, don’t purchase tickets.”
Although we often celebrate when a movie features a strong female lead, a LGBTQ couple, or a racially diverse cast, clearly we are still not doing enough.
Professor Stacy L. Smith, a main researcher in the study, echoes similar thoughts. She explained,
“These are sustained and systemic problems. It is impossible to look at this data without concluding that much of the advocacy surrounding on-screen representation over the past few years has not been successful.”
“Perhaps we will see more positive trends in the future, given the current level of conversation and success of certain movies this year. However, until solutions focus on changing the exclusionary hiring practices and countering explicit and implicit biases in Hollywood, it is difficult to expect real change anytime soon.”
So for anyone who doesn’t believe that representation is an issue, perhaps take a look at the stats. We have to advocate for more minorities both in front of and behind the camera, in any way that we can. Even if you aren’t an aspiring actor or filmmaker, you can still make an effort to enact change. Buy tickets to movies that feature diverse roles, and perhaps don’t spend money on fratty white guy movies that are probably a waste of $12 anyway.