Of the 900 Biggest Box Office Hits of the Last Ten Years, Only One Had a Latina Director

Lead Photo: 'Miracles From Heaven' still Courtesy of Sony PIctures
'Miracles From Heaven' still Courtesy of Sony PIctures
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Despite ever-louder complaints about Hollywood being an almost exclusively white boys club, there’s not much to suggest successful campaigns like #OscarSoWhite and #52FilmsByWomen are having much of an effect on the film industry’s current ecosystem. At least that’s the conclusion one might be tempted to draw from the recent study published by the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Titled “Inequality in 900 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBT, and Disability,” the numbers shared suggest what we’ve long been told: women and minorities are still underrepresented both in front and behind the camera. Out of the 100 top films of 2016, for example, a total of 14 movies had leads or co-leads played by 16 actors from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. And, spoiler alert, once you break down the numbers even more, Latinos as a whole continue to be mostly absent from mainstream fare.

Speaking to these findings Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition and Secretariat of the National Latino Media Council, echoed what many industry insiders have been voicing for several years (if not decades!) now: “We are outraged that as our country is growing richer in diversity, Hollywood has made little progress in film or television in bringing the people who look like their audience to the big and small screens. Latinos are the most grossly underrepresented groups in both film and TV, at a time when we are the biggest moviegoers in the country and among the most loyal television fans. We deserve and demand to see our faces and hear our stories on-screen.”

Sadly, change will not come suddenly. With blockbusters and Hollywood tentpole flicks being greenlit and cast years ahead of their release dates, we likely have not seen the full impact of our national conversation surrounding “diversity” and won’t for years to come. Nevertheless, if you really want to delve deep into the topic, take a close look at the USC report with the statistics we’ve culled for you below.


Half of 2016's Top 100 Films Had NO Latino Speaking Characters

That’s right, while Latinos make up 17.8% of the U.S. population, they only account for 3.1% of the speaking (not even leading!) roles in Hollywood films. It translates to a -14.7% difference. And that’s compared to 25 films that had no Black or African American speaking characters and 44 that had no Asian speaking characters. Which: bad news all around, really.


Of the Top 100 Films of 2016, 72 Had NO Latina Characters

Unsurprisingly, the numbers get even worse when you break it down by gender. Overall, for example, men account for 68.6% of all speaking roles in these films, with women far behind with a measly 31.4%. Needless to say, we don’t just need more people to hire Gina Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson, and Jennifer Lopez more often to try and further boost those numbers, but to make sure smaller roles don’t automatically go to straight white males.


The Percentage of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Other Characters Have Not Changed Since 2007

This is perhaps the biggest takeaway from the report which went back all the way to 2007 to compile the most exhaustive study of gender/ethnic/minority breakdown in successful Hollywood films, even if, as they note, “The percentage of White characters has decreased 6.8%.” So: small victories wherever we can find them!


In 2016, Only 1 Movie Featured Proportional Representation of Latinos On-Screen

In layman’s terms, that just means very few movies accurately represent the demographic breakdown of the United States. Here’s where breaking down the numbers year by year can sometimes skew the conclusions to be drawn. Diego Luna’s role in Rogue One, for example, adds to the sense that Latinos headlining films can be beneficial for box office, even if his inclusion in the Star Wars franchise is an obvious anomaly that more of us wish were an emerging pattern instead.


Only ONE Latina Worked as a Director in the 900 Films Studied

That would be Patricia Riggen, who’s behind Miracles from Heaven, The 33, and the Kate del Castillo-starrer Under the Same Moon.