Hollywood big-screen diversity out of step with U.S.: study

LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 4, 2014 6:21pm EDT

A view of the Hollywood sign from Bronson Canyon park in Hollywood, California February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A view of the Hollywood sign from Bronson Canyon park in Hollywood, California February 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood has not meaningfully increased the number of minority characters on the big screen and Hispanics were the most underrepresented in films, a study released on Monday said.

About three-quarters of film characters were white last year, which was in line with annual totals over the previous five years, according to the study, conducted by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

But in its evaluation of 3,932 speaking characters in 100 films from last year, researchers determined that 5 percent of characters on screen were Hispanics compared with 17.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, according to government figures.

"Hispanics and Latinos are one of the fastest-growing groups in the U.S.," Marc Choueiti, an author of the study, said in a statement. "If popular films were the only way to gauge diversity, viewers would be completely unaware of this. Individuals from this group are almost invisible on screen."

Furthermore, the study found that Hispanic men and women were the most sexualized group in Hollywood, with 37.5 percent of female characters shown partially or fully naked, and 16.5 percent of males portrayed in revealing or tight clothing.

Black actors fared better, the study found, with 14.1 percent of the speaking parts. Blacks make up 13.2 percent of the U.S. population.

But only five of the 107 directors credited in the movies examined were black, the study found. Black directors, who were all male, were also more likely to direct black actors.

Minority-directed films, however, scored big at this year's Oscar awards with "12 Years a Slave," a film by Steve McQueen, who became the first black director to win the best picture honor. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron took home the best director award for his outer space drama "Gravity."

The study faulted Hollywood for not changing the representation of minorities in line with demographic changes in the United States, where nearly half of children younger than five are not white.

"Despite the demographic changes at work in the U.S., films still portray a homogenized picture of the world," the study said, adding that the findings "illustrate how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen."

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (2)
sinaiticus wrote:
Would be interested to know where Asians factored in this study (if at all).

Aug 04, 2014 7:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TexasTitus wrote:
In the future race won’t matter in films. Because films will be made more abstract.

A director will story board and film a generic scene with the actor. Then the video will be fed into a computer that will strip it down to just splines. Next the wireframe version of the film will be manipulated with CGI into whatever the studio/director wants it to be.

For example a film may be released in the US with white actors in scenees, then when the international versions are released the scenes will be altered with actors of other ethnicities.

Think of those badly dubbed Kung Fu films of the seventies only instead of the lips being off, the skin will be.

Kind of like Ted Turner’s colorization of old films, only the colorization will be race.

Aug 04, 2014 9:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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