In one of the most exhaustive and damning reports on diversity in Hollywood, a new study finds that the films and television produced by major media companies are “whitewashed,” and that an “epidemic of invisibility” runs top to bottom through the industry for women, minorities and LGBT people.
A study to be released Monday by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism offers one of the most wide-ranging examinations of the film and television industries, including a pointed “inclusivity index” of 10 major media companies — from Disney to Netflix — that gives a failing grade to every movie studio and most TV makers.
Coming just days before an Academy Awards where a second straight year of all-white acting nominees has enflamed an industry-wide crisis, the report offers a new barrage of sobering statistics that further evidence a deep discrepancy between Hollywood and the American population it entertains, in gender, race and ethnicity.
“The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite,” said Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and one of the study’s authors, in an interview. “We don’t have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”
The study, titled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, examined the 109 films released by major studios (including art-house divisions) in 2014 and 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services that aired from September 2014 to August 2015. More than 11,000 speaking characters were analyzed for gender, racial and ethnic representation and LGBT status. Some 10,000 directors, writers and show creators were examined, as was the gender of more than 1,500 executives.
The portrait is one of pervasive underrepresentation, no matter the media platform, from CEOs to minor characters. “Overall, the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed,” the study concludes.
In the 414 studied films and series, only a third of speaking characters were female, and only 28.3 percent were from minority groups — about 10 percent less than the makeup of the U.S. population. Characters 40 years or older skew heavily male across film and TV: 74.3 percent male to 25.7 percent female.
Just 2 percent of speaking characters were LGBT-identified. Among the 11,306 speaking characters studied, only seven were transgendered (and four were from the same series).
“When we start to step back to see this larger ecology, I think we see a picture of exclusion,” said Smith. “And it doesn’t match the norms of the population of the United States.”
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