Diversity on screen may be the hottest topic in Hollywood, with filmmakers, studios, and award shows all vowing to increase representation in film, but a new study finds that the movie business has yet to act on those promises.
A new study released Wednesday by the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication found that female, LGBT, and racially diverse characters are still dramatically underrepresented in major Hollywood films.
Since 2007, the MDSCI has analyzed the top 100 films of each year, logging data for every speaking or named character on screen. The 2015 edition shows that diversity on screen is almost exactly the same as it was in 2007.
Men continue to vastly outnumber women on screen, and only 31.4 percent of all speaking characters were women in last year’s top films. (In 2007, that number was 29.9 percent, and it’s stayed almost exactly the same since.) That percentage gets even lower in genres like action/adventure or animation, and only 32 of last year’s top 100 films featured a female lead or co-lead.
But even though there are fewer women on screen, the ones who are included are way more likely to be shown in “sexy attire” or appear nude. The study also revealed that 13 to 20-year-old female characters are just as likely to be shown in sexy attire and with some nudity as 21- to- 39-year-old female characters.
When it comes to representation of people of color, the study found that 73.7 percent of characters were white, while only 12.2 percent were black, 5.3 percent Latino, and 3.9 percent Asian — and those percentages haven’t changed since 2007. Seventeen of last year’s top films had zero black or African-American speaking characters, while 40 films lacked Latino characters and a whopping 49 films had no Asian characters.
As for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender characters? Less than 1 percent of all named or speaking characters were LGBT, or only 32 characters out of 4,370. That’s slightly better than last year, when there were only 19 characters. And although the study found zero transgender characters in 2014, this year, they found one.
The study also found that there isn’t just a lack of diversity in front of the camera. Out of last year’s top 100 films, there were only eight female directors, four black directors, and six Asian or Asian-American directors.
“We’re seeing entrenched inequality,” USC professor Stacy L. Smith, the study’s lead author, told the Associated Press. “Whether we’re studying gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT or characters with disabilities, we’re really seeing exclusionary forces leaving out anybody that’s not a straight, white, able-bodied man. Despite all the chatter and all the activism and all the press attention, it’s another year where the status quo has been maintained.”