Friday, September 9, 2016

USC study: Hollywood bias so deeply ingrained making it difficult to improve diversity

By Louis Chan
Reprinted from AsAm News

HOW FAR has Hollywood advanced on the big screen when it comes to diversity?

Despite the brouhaha that arose the last two years about the lack of casting opportunities for actors of color, a new report released this morning by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism shows not much has changed from last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and ....

The research exposes the depth and breadth of exclusion. Of the top 100 films of 2015, an overwhelming 73.7 percent of all characters in Hollywood in 2015 were White. Only 3.9 percent were Asian. 49 films had no Asian speaking characters at all. Not one lead or co-lead went to an Asian actor.

Only 12.2 percent of the roles went to Blacks, 5.3 percent to Hispanics. Those percentages are virtually unchanged since 2007.

The statistics for the report were compiled from the top 100 grossing films of 2015. The report has been compiled since 2007, excluding 2011.

In 2015, 73.7 percent of characters were White, 12.2  percent Black, 5.3 percent Latino, 3.9 percent Asian,  less than 1 percent Middle Eastern, American Indian/Alaskan Native and  Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 3.6 percent Other or “mixed race.” Together, a total of 26.3 percent of all speaking characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. There was no change in the percentage of White, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian or Other races/ethnicities from 2007 to 2015.

Only 14 of the movies depicted an underrepresented lead or co lead. Nine of the leads/co leads were Black, one Latino, and four were mixed race. Not one lead or co-lead was played by an Asian actor.

“Everyone deserves a chance to be seen and heard, and their stories should be told,” says Marc Choueiti, Project Administrator for the Initiative. “Our research points out the gaps and shows where change is possible.”

The Hollywood hierarchy appears to be no different from the diversity shown in the acting ranks.

Somewhat surprisingly, even within the Asian characters, 70 percent were male characters. Asian women were 38.5 percent more likely to be portrayed as mothers. 32.6 percent were dressed in sexy attire. 34.8 percent of Asian women characters appeared nude. Those percentages were all slightly higher than other ethnic groups. Asian men were the least likely to appear in sexy attire (5.4 percent). Latino men were the most likely (12.7 percent). Asian men were also the least likely to appear nude (5.4 percent). Latino men were the most likely (15.5 percent).

“Our work is about bringing evidence and insight to media industries on where diversity is needed. I am in this to change the landscape of humanity, flanked by the next generation of world leaders: USC graduates and undergraduates,” says Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative.
(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)