An interesting report from the University of Southern California shows that despite advancements in diversity, Hollywood is still very much a “straight, white, boy’s club”.
The researchers for this particular study examined 109 films released in 2014 by major studios, alongside 305 TV and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services between September 2014 and August 2015. Sadly, both TV and film were found to have major failings.
So overall, 11,306 speaking characters were included in this study, and just 33% were female, 28% were minority ethnic and only 2% were LGBT. Also, out of the almost 12,000 speaking characters, a total of seven transgender characters were found. Of the few LGBT characters, 72.1% of them were white.
This problem was also reflected behind the camera, as well. Only 15% of directors, 28% of writers and 22% of series creators were female and two films out of the 109 were written by black women.
Stacy Smith, the lead author of the study, said: ‘”This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis. 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. When we turn to see where the problem is better or worse, the apex to this whole endeavour is: Everyone in film is failing, all of the companies investigated.”
“[Film studios] are impervious to change. But there are pockets of promise in television. There is a focus that change is possible. The very companies that are inclusive – Disney, CW, Hulu, Amazon to some degree – those companies, if they’re producing and distributing motion pictures, can do this. We now have evidence that they can, and they can thrive.”
Naturally, the “pockets of promise” Stacy is referring to are obviously shows such as Orange is the New Black, Sense8, Transparent, Jessica Jones and so on.
This study certainly has good timing, as it was released just days before the Oscars, which has come under fire for it’s lack of diversity. Change is certainly frustratingly slow in the film and TV industry, but the existence of shows such as OITNB do show we are making progress, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Let’s just hope that the next time a study is done, things will have improved.