The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), released Monday by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, reveals the lack of diversity in Hollywood runs through the industry’s entire hierarchy.
It is the first study of its kind examining how different ethnic and minority groups are represented in film and television productions.
The study, completed just days before the Academy Awards telecast by the school’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, provides exhaustive analysis and ranking of film, television and digital streaming services in terms of speaking characters, crew members, and executives representing different groups.
Ten major movie studios and production companies, such as Walt Disney Co. and Netflix, were also graded according to an “inclusivity index,” and all of them received a failing grade.
Stacy L. Smith, professor and founding director of the group that conducted the study, stressed films and television produced by major media companies are “whitewashed,” and an “epidemic of invisibility” runs top to bottom through the industry for women, minorities and LGBT people.
“This is no mere diversity problem,” said Smith. “This is an inclusion crisis. Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20 percent featured no African-American characters. It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary.”
The study found that only 28 percent of all speaking characters across 414 films, television and digital episodes produced in 2014-15 were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, almost 10 percent below the U.S. population norm.
Out of the 407 directors evaluated, 87 percent were white, while 13 percent were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Only two of the 53 underrepresented directors in film and television/digital series were black women. Among LGBT characters, nearly three quarters were male and almost 28 percent were female. Roughly 78 percent of LGBT characters in productions surveyed were white, while 21 percent were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.
Even with the discouraging numbers, the authors offered several bright spots in addressing the challenges of increasing diversity on-screen and off. For instance, Disney and CW Network promote hiring practices behind the camera for underrepresented writers and show creators.
“Organizations can take steps to solve inequality,” said Marc Choueiti, one of the study’s other authors. “Our hope is that companies begin to implement these solutions and that the numbers will improve.”
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