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Hollywood Still 'So White,' Study Reveals

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The silver screen may be better described as the white male screen.

In the last decade, very little has changed in terms of representation in front of and behind the camera for women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and members of disability communities, according to the latest report by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual study.  

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“Those expecting a banner year for inclusion will be disappointed,” Stacy L. Smith, founding director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, was quoted as saying in Los Angeles Daily News. “Hollywood has yet to move from talking about inclusion to meaningfully increasing on-screen representation for women, people of color, the LGBT community, or individuals with disabilities.”

The study, which was titled “Inequality in 1,100 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBT & Disability,” examined 1,100 films and 48,757 characters between 2007–2017, focusing on independent speaking or named characters shown on-screen for gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and disability. The report also catalogued gender and race in behind-the-camera roles, such as directing, writing, and production.

But the findings reveal that not much has changed in a decade of cinema.

Female speaking roles represent only 31.8% as of 2017, barely shifting over the past 10 years. Of the top films in 2017, only 33% featured a female lead or co-lead. Diversity behind the camera is not much better: Only 7.3% of directors are women and only 43 women directed films among the 1,100 studied between 2007 and 2017. Of those, just four were women of color, all of them mixed race.

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“As the reverberations of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to resonate in the entertainment industry and beyond, this investigation marks how far we still have to go,” a report in the Verge states.

To wit, a whopping 70.7% of film characters are white, the study found. Films also fall short in representing LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities, “especially when those categories intersect with race/ethnicity,” noted the Verge.

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Just 14 of the 1,100 films surveyed featured a lead character with a disability, and more than two-thirds of characters with disabilities portrayed overall were male.

“Workplace safety goes hand in hand with workplace equity,” wrote the authors of the study. “As we have demonstrated, there are still few films where equity is a hallmark of the production or the content. Addressing the lack of inclusivity in cinema is an essential part of building a future in which talented individuals can safely create, inspire, and entertain audiences who are finally able to see their own challenges and triumphs on screen.”