HOLLYWOOD — With the Oscars coming up Feb. 28 amid a charged debate over diversity in Hollywood, a pair of studies released Feb. 22 by USC and UCLA drove home the point that women and minorities continue to be dramatically under-represented in every facet of film and television entertainment production.
Minorities constituted nearly 40 percent of the population in 2013 and will become the majority in just a few decades, but “they remain under-represented on every front,” the UCLA study found. The under-representation applies to film directors, film writers, motion picture and TV performers and show creators, according to UCLA.
The study found that women have enjoyed fewer gains in Hollywood since its previous report.
“They posted small gains in only two employment areas [among film directors and the creators of broadcast scripted shows] and regressed in two others [among film writers and broadcast scripted leads.] They remain underrepresented on nearly every front,” it said.
The underrepresentation of women shows up among film leads, film directors and writers, as well as the people who work in broadcast and cable TV, the study added.
In executive suites, “white males continued to dominate the positions from which green-lighting decisions are made in the Hollywood industry,” the study found. It added that film studio heads were 94 percent white and 100 percent male, film studio management is 92 percent white and 83 percent male, film studio unit heads are 96 percent white and 61 percent male, TV network and studio heads are 96 percent white and 71 percent male, TV senior management is 93 percent white and 73 percent male, TV unit heads are 86 percent white and 55 percent male.
A separate report by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative mirrored the UCLA findings, noting that the numbers of women and minorities represented in entertainment productions haven’t budged in 10 years.
The USC report examined films, television shows and digital series released in 1994, and of the 11,306 speaking roles evaluated, 66.5 percent were male and 33.5 percent were female. Looking at just films, only 28.7 percent of speaking roles were filled by females.
When evaluating race and ethnicity of characters in film and television, 71.1 percent were white, 12.2 percent black, 5.8 percent Hispanic/Latino, 5.1 percent Asian, 2.3 percent Middle Eastern and 3.1 percent considered “other.”
“We believe that evaluating company output is a crucial aspect of pushing the conversation on media inclusion forward to create real change,” the USC report’s authors wrote in an introductory letter. “Accountability and awareness can only take us so far, though. This report is not about shame or punishment. Rather, our aim is to help companies align their products with the values they hold.”
A newspaper, meanwhile, reported that the state of diversity in Hollywood may look no better next year than it does now.
Looking at the 184 movies officially announced for release this year by 14 studios, the Academy Awards next year may be just as pale and male as this year’s telecast, USA Today reported.
“Our analysis doesn’t assess the Oscar viability of 2016’s forthcoming movies. But it shows a discernible lack of minority and female faces in major roles and among the directors of the films being released between January and December 2016,” according to the newspaper. “In fact, there’s a striking number of movies in which there are only white faces.”
In a report card for the coming year in the film industry, almost every studio deserves reprimand, USA Today reported.
“Hollywood has been whitewashed, in front of the cameras and behind, from casting to writing to producers to actors,” Jeetendr Sehdev, a USC professor who has researched the challenges in improving diversity in the film industry, told the newspaper.
All 20 acting nominees for this year’s Academy Awards are white, for the second year in a row, leading to the public outcry about the lack of diversity in Hollywood and spawning the online hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced changes to its voting and membership regulations in mid-January, aimed at doubling its female and diverse membership by 2020.
But Academy officials, and many pundits, have acknowledged that the problem of a lack of diversity is not restricted to the Oscars, but affects the entertainment industry at large, as reflected in the new studies.