The film and television industry of the United States does not represent the population it serves, either on- or off-screen, according to a study published Monday by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity evaluated the number of women, LGBT, black, and asian people working in the film and television industry, as well as how they’re portrayed on the big and small screen.
The study examined the hiring processes of six film studios and 10 TV networks (including digital networks such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon) in 2014, including the casts and crews of more than 100 films and 300 TV series. The results provide academic data to support the problem pundits have brought up in response to public outcries like #OscarsSoWhite: Hollywood’s power structure perpetually fills itself with white men.
“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” said associate professor Stacy L. Smith, co-author of the study and director of the school’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative. “Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20% featured no African-American characters. It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary.”
As it turns out, less than 30 percent of all characters on film and TV come from “underrepresented ethnic groups” (not white or hispanic). Only a third of speaking roles are female.
LGBT characters are still massively underrepresented, with only two percent of speaking roles on film and television, including a grand total of seven transgender characters. More than half of LGBT characters at the movies came from two movies: Pride and Love Is Strange.
Perhaps the strongest statistics show the dearth of women with creative control in the industry. Less than a quarter of showrunners and fewer than one in five directors are women. Among a set of broad, academic solutions, such as “alter stereotypical thinking” and “[create] target inclusion goals,” green-lighting films with female directors stood out as the study’s most concrete, actionable solution.
With the number in hand, the question remains, how can Hollywood, a generally exclusive institution, make itself a more diverse club? Flavorwire asked film industry insiders what it would take to make Hollywood more inclusive. The solution is not simple.