Yet, in this home of the entertainment industry, Latinos barely exist on the big screen. That, at least, is the finding of a USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism study on race and ethnicity in film.
The school's Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative this week released its analysis of “on screen portrayals of diversity in popular motion picture content.” Researchers looked at …
… 100 of the top-grossing films for 2013.
The numbers at first don't look so bad. About 1 in 4 speaking roles (25.9 percent) went to minorities. But when you break down the figures, it starts to get sad, especially for Latinos.
Only about 5 percent of the roles (4.9 percent) went to Latinos. Asian Americans saw 4.4 percent representation, African Americans got 14.1 percent.
For Latinos, there's a sense of informal media apartheid in the entertainment business.
Alex Nogales who, as president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, has for years been trying to get Hollywood to diversify, says the report “is damning for the industry.”
“There's a big disconnect between the movie makers and the community that surrounds them.,” he said. “You would think they would have married into our culture already.”
Nogales notes that Latinos are overrepresented at the box office. While the demographic represents 17 percent of the United States population, it buys 1 in 4 movie tickets, according to a 2013 Neilsen audience analysis.
“We're going to have to go visit with the studios and remind them again who is making their films successful,” Nogales told us. “Who is going to continue to be a bigger and bigger audience? We not only expect, but we demand, to be included.”
The dire figures also lead the National Hispanic Media Coalition to wonder why some politicians, including state assemblymen Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, are so keen on letting big Hollywood media corporations get tax breaks, he said.
A bill by Gatto and Bocanegra would expand the amount of taxpayer cash going to these companies, from $100 million to an expected $400 million.
“Why should we give them tax credits when they're not reflecting the diversity of our state,” Nogales said.
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