While it may seem that Hollywood is listening to calls for more diverse stories, the numbers don’t point to more diverse representation. A recent study by the Media, Diversity, & Socal Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that despite dozens of op-eds and calls for inclusion on and off-screen, little has changed.
In particular, the representation of women, LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, disabled people and other minorities hasn’t changed in film this year. Women, Hispanics and disabled people are most impacted, as according to THR, their exclusion “is the norm in Hollywood, not the exception.” USC has run this study annually since 2007, clocking the 100 highest-grossing films of the year and taking stats on those in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Of 4,583 speaking female characters from 2016’s list of hit film, 31.4% were female, which is approximately the same as 2007’s stats. 34 of the films were helmed by a female character, with only three from minority groups.
But it gets worse. Of the films surveyed for 2016, 70.8% of the characters were white, which is 10% higher than the stat for white men in the most recent U.S. Census. Furthermore, 25 of the 100 films did not have a single speaking black character, 54 had no Hispanic characters, and 44 had no Asian characters. Weirdly enough, the last stat is up, as 49 films had no Asian characters in 2015. It’s even worse for women of color: 47 films had no black women, 66 had no Asian women, and 72 had no Hispanic women.
The study is a sobering reminder that Hollywood has a long path to equality, despite several recent hits starring underrepresented groups. “Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Wonder Woman” have been well received, with “Moonlight” winning three Oscars including Best Motion Picture this year. “Wonder Woman” broke one glass ceiling by becoming the highest grossing comic film helmed by a female director, and could break another if the film heads to the Oscars. But, as this study reminds us, the bigger picture is still overwhelming white, cis, straight, and male.
Read USC’s full study here.