USC Diversity Report: Latinos Get Less Than 6% of TV and Film Roles

Read more

You may recall a few months back we published some edifying tidbits culled from the latest diversity study out of USC’s Annenberg School of Media and Journalism. While the school’s 30-page report on the 2014 film industry was chock-full of dizzying charts, graphs, and percentages, one thing was painfully clear from the study: Hollywood is a male-dominated whitewash. Of course, none of us were really surprised by this revelation, but it’s always nice to have some scientific ammo to back up your claims, no matter how obvious they may be.

Now, less than six months after their last report was published, the eggheads over at Annenberg have incorporated some new criteria based on the feedback they received to create their first ever Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD). The new report analyzes film releases from 2014 in addition to TV industry data from September 1st 2014 to August 31st 2015 using similar criteria relating to gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation; but this time they go a step farther to parse out the differences in representation between the film and television mediums, and even give grades to specific companies based on their diversity both in front of, and behind cameras.

The ultimate conclusions are basically identical to those of their last report, which is that, in their own words: “The film industry still functions as a straight, White, boy’s club.” Yeah, again, no surprises. But we did learn a few new facts that we wanted to pass along to you, our dear readers.

It’s getting better.

A tiny, little bit better. But better nonetheless. Annenberg’s previous report had Latino representation in film in dead last place, with 4.9% of all speaking roles being identifiably Latino (ahead of the nebulous “Other” minority category, which was at 4.2%). This time around, when including television, we bumped up a slot to 5.8%, ahead of Asians, Middle Easterners, and “Others.” Rejoice! ?

But it’s still really bad.

Latinos are still the least represented minority group on film and TV relative to percentage of the population. In other words, we make up about 17.1% of the total U.S. population, but make up only 5.8% of speaking roles. In fact, the 9.6% gap between minority representation on film and TV, and minority percentage of the population (28.3% vs. 37.9%) is accounted for almost exclusively by lack of Latinos in the media. Asians and African Americans, on the other hand, are pretty fairly represented relative to their populations (5.1% and 12.2%, respectively.)

In the conclusions for this section of the report, the writers slammed the industry opining: “The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite, as our findings show that an epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling.”

Hollywood still loves Latinas.

In a positive sign, Latinos are the minority group with the most gender diversity in film and television. 37.9% of all Latino characters in the study were female, compared to 34.3% of white characters, and 33.9% of black characters. Only about 10% to go and Hollywood will almost look like the real world.

...As long as they’re hypersexualized.

Yeah, then there’s that. Latinas were the second most likely minority group to appear in “sexualized attire” or with “some nudity” behind our mysterious “Other” minority sisters. Asian women were the least sexualized of all minority categories, just a hair behind African Americans.

LGBT Latino characters are virtually non-existent.

As USC’s researchers so wisely point out: “Beyond this invisibility, intersectionality is also a problem.” In 2014, the LGBT characters across film and television weren’t actually LGBT, they were mostly just G. The majority of the LGBT roles were white males, meaning you’d be hard-pressed to find a Latina lesbian, a Latino bisexual man, or transgender person of any color in a leading role.

So you wanna be a director, huh?

Good luck. Annenberg didn’t even bother separating minorities into different categories for this one. Only 13% of all film and television directors were underrepresented minorities, which explains why they call us “underrepresented.” Interestingly, the study’s authors noted a correlation between minority directors and minority inclusion in speaking roles. Conclusion: Get more of us behind the camera, and you’ll get more of us in front.

Watch more Hulu.

Of the 10 broadcast, cable, and streaming television studios included in this study, Hulu was the only one to receive a grade of “Fully Inclusive” for both female character inclusion and minority character inclusion, at 50% and 34% respectively. We’re guessing East Los High helped their numbers a bit. For those wondering, Time Warner was in dead last place, with 33% and 25%.

We’ve got a long way to go.

Sure, we can say that minority representation across film and television needs a 9.6% bump and we’ll be ready to go, but this number fails to include a factor that Annenberg referred to as “invisibility.” Focusing their inquiry exclusively on black and Asian characters, Annenberg found that over 20% of films and series across platforms included no African American speaking parts, while a whopping 50-plus% didn’t include Asians. In other words, more representation doesn’t guarantee real diversity. Hollywood, it seems, also has a segregation problem.