When it Comes to Diversity, Hollywood Is Almost the Exact Opposite of L.A.
Last year there was a lot of bad press for Hollywood leading up to the Academy Awards in early 2016. No people of color were nominated for acting Oscars, prompting critics to launch an #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences responded with a sweeping effort to diversify, including a new membership class that was 46 percent female and 41 percent minority.
Despite the headlines and decades of criticism ("Academy Award Winners Haven't Included Latino Actors, Nonwhite Actresses in 10 Years" read one of our headlines, from 2012), the film and television industry doesn't seem to be budging on diversity and women.
The latest indication of that is the just-released Inequality in 800 Films report from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
"Hollywood is an epicenter of cultural inequality," said Stacy L. Smith, founding director of the initiative and author of the report.
Tightening their focus on the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, researchers found very little change when it comes to minority inclusion. In fact, Hollywood as seen through the lens of its hiring appears to be the demographic opposite of Los Angeles County, which is about 72 percent, or three-fourths, nonwhite.
The analysis found that 73.7 percent of characters in those films were white. It gets worse when you look at Latinos, who make up nearly half the L.A. County population. In a scathing critique of Hollywood diversity in 2014, Chris Rock said, "You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans."
Well, film and TV has been trying hard, you have to give them that much. The USC report says 5.3 percent of the roles in the films it examined went to Latinos. Only 3.9 percent went to people of Asian descent. African-Americans saw 12.2 percent of roles.
Last year USC found that Latinos got 4.9 percent of speaking roles, African-Americans got 12.5 percent and Asian-Americans got 5.3 percent.
This year the researchers found that only 31.4 percent of speaking or named characters were women.
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"This calculates into a gender ratio of 2.2 male characters to every one female character," the report states. "There has been no meaningful change in the percentage of girls and women onscreen between 2007 and 2015."
"Essentially the report verifies that Hollywood has done absolutely nothing in terms of diversity and the inclusion of women," says Najee Ali of the National Action Network's Los Angeles chapter, which organized a boycott of the Oscars in February. "Activists and others have raised this issue consistently for years, yet Hollywood continues to just talk but do nothing."
He said another boycott was likely this coming awards season, and that his organization is even speaking to Academy Awards advertisers.
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