If you think the likes of Will Smith, Cameron Diaz and John Cho have transformed Hollywood films and heralded a new day of multicultural faces in the multiplex, you might want to think again.

Sure there are more and more minorities topping marquees in the new millennium, but if you look at the data, big-screen diversity is not that impressive.

USC recently did just that:

Professor Stacy L. Smith of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism assembled a team that looked at 500 top-grossing flicks, featuring 20,000 speaking roles, from 2007 to 2012.

The results were kind of sad, according to a USC summary:

African Americans represented 10.8% of all speaking characters, while Hispanics represented 4.2% and Asians 5%. In the top-grossing films analyzed from 2012, nearly 40% depict black characters in less than 5% of all speaking roles.

Latinos now represent about 17 percent of the American population and half of the L.A. county populace.

Looking at those same films, the researchers found only 33 black directors, with only two of those being women, according to the school.

Stereotypes live, too: Latinas were the most likely to be shown nude or in sexy attire, the USC team found. African American men were the least likely to be depicted as romantic partners.


There is still a noticeable lack of diversity across the landscape of popular films. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement, and the Census shows that the population of the United States is more diverse than ever. Our film content, however, depicts something very different.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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