On-screen diversity has barely changed in the last decade, study finds
Even as both filmgoers and filmmakers have increasingly called for more diversity on screen, a new study has found that representation in film has barely changed in the last 10 years — and it still has a long way to go.
The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its annual investigation into film diversity on Tuesday, finding that there has been almost no change in the number of women, people of color, and LGBT characters depicted on screen in the last decade.
Since 2007, the initiative has examined every speaking or named character shown on screen in the top 100 films for each year at the domestic box office. In all, that’s 48,757 characters across 1,100 movies. The study found that only 31.8 percent of all speaking characters in 2017’s top films were female — an increase of only 1.9 percentage points from 2007. In contrast, 50.8 percent of the U.S. population is female.
And even though last year’s three highest-grossing domestic movies all starred women — Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman — those films were in the minority: In 2017, only 33 of the year’s top 100 films featured a woman in a leading or co-leading role.
The study also found a dramatic disparity between the number of white and non-white characters on screen: 70.7 percent of all speaking characters were white, as opposed to 12.1 percent black characters, 4.8 percent Asian characters, 6.2 percent Hispanic or Latino characters, and 1.7 percent Middle-Eastern characters. In all, only 29.3 percent of speaking characters were from an underrepresented racial group, whereas 38.7 percent of the U.S. population is.
Representation of LGBT characters was especially dismal. Eighty-one of last year’s top 100 films had zero gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters, and not a single film had a transgender character.
Women of color and LGBT female characters also continued to be among the least represented: 43 of last year’s top 100 films featured zero black women, while 64 lacked any Latina characters, 65 had no Asian or Asian-American female characters, and 94 had no LGBT women.
Not only does the report examine representation on screen, but it also looks at diversity behind the camera: Out of the 1,223 directors who helmed 1,100 films, only 53 were women, 64 were black, and 38 were Asian or Asian-American.
So what can Hollywood do to make on-screen characters more representative of the world we live in? The study has a few solutions, including encouraging the industry to adopt inclusion riders (a term that gained widespread popularity after Frances McDormand mentioned it this year in her Oscars acceptance speech). The report also recommends adding five female speaking roles to every script to reach gender parity by 2020.
Read the full report here.