Black Experience

Hollywood Still White Boys Club: Study

If one wants to build the prototypical Hollywood film, you would start with a white, heterosexual, able-bodied male lead, a new study confirms.

The study, conducted by the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, shows that the gender ratio in the 100 top grossing films was 2.2 male characters to every one female character, showing males are getting over double the amount of opportunities as their female counterparts. This is nothing in comparison to the gender gap in the staff behind the camera, as directors, writers and producers of the top 100 grossing films of 2015 were 81 percent male and 19 percent female. Of directors, 92.5 percent were male — a 12.4 to 1 male-to-female ratio. Clearly, the film industry is still a “man’s world.”

And inequality throughout Hollywood is not just limited to gender, as the numbers show that a number of races are highly underrepresented in major motion pictures. Only 26.3 percent of all speaking characters in the films analyzed were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, compared to 73.7 percent speaking characters who were white. Only four of the 107 directors were Black or African American (3.7 percent) and six were Asian or Asian American (5.6 percent).

In sharp contrast, the population of the United States is 61.6 percent white, 17.6 percent Hispanic, 13.3 percent Black, 5.6 percent Asian, 2.6 percent two or more races and less than one percent both American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian, according to the U.S. Census QuickFacts.

People with disabilities were also significantly underrepresented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 percent of adults in the U.S. live with some type of disability. This statistic did not translate over into Hollywood, though; people with disabilities only made up 2.4 percent of all speaking or named characters in these films. According to the report, 45 of the 100 movies did not have a single speaking character with a disability. Further, the report states, “Most of the portrayals appeared in action adventure films (33.3 percent). Only 2 percent of all characters with disabilities were shown in animated movies.”

An interesting side note on the gender gap between females or males portrayed with a disability was 19 percent female to 81 percent male. The CDC reported that one in four adult females in the U.S. live with a disability.

LGBT people had virtually no big screen presence in 2015, the report found. Not one lead or co lead in any of the top 100 films in the sample were LGBT identified. 82 of the 100 films did not even have one speaking or named character that was LGBT. Not a single character with a disability identified as LGBT. (It is difficult to accurately estimate how many people in the U.S. identify as LGBT. In 2015, according to Gallup data, 3.8 percent of adults identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.)

This study brings up a number of equality issues facing the film industry. One is the proportional misrepresentation of populations in films compared to the country’s diverse population. Having the majority of the crew behind the camera being white males shows Hollywood is stuck in the past. The study points out the two biggest roadblocks to equality in Hollywood are “the lack of imagination and [the] willingness to change.” Hopefully these statistics and this study can help drive this industry’s issues and lead to a more progressive and inclusive Hollywood, rather than a repeat performance of #OscarsSoWhite.

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