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USC Annenberg’s Annual Hollywood Study is Out and… It’s Business As Usual

I love studies. It’s dorky, but I really do. Mainly I love them because I like to back up my opinions with facts- especially my opinions about representation in the entertainment industry. Just earlier today, USC Annenberg (as part of the Media Diversity Social Change Initiative) released Inequality in 900 Popular Films– an ongoing study that has been released every year since 2007 to chronicle the astounding lack of diversity in the entertainment industry, particularly in mainstream films. And…it’s no big surprise that much hasn’t changed since last year, or the years before it.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE STATISTICS: 

Microsoft Word Inequality in 900 Popular Films 7.24.17 Designed (1)
Graphic Courtesy of the USC Annenburg Inequality in 900 Films Study

Of 1,438 content creators, these are the amount that are female: Directors: 4.2%, Writers: 13.2%, Producers: 20.7%, Composers: 1.7%

Of the top 100 films of 2016 without female minorities: Black: 47%, Asian: 66% Hispanic: 72%, LGBT: 91%..

Out of 900 films, only 34 were female directors.

Microsoft Word Inequality in 900 Popular Films 7.24.17 Designed
Graphic Courtesy of the USC Annenburg Inequality in 900 Films Study

29.2% of characters in major films were from underrepresented groups, but this does not match the audience- which is made up of 49%.

In the 100 top grossing movies of 2016, only 2.7% were depicted with a disability.

THE TAKE AWAY

Each year these studies continue, it becomes more and more disheartening. In each study I read, I can feel the frustrations of the writers- successfully proving the lack of inclusion, but the industry failing to make any sort of major changes. The quote below was the conclusion of the study:

Year to year, advocates and activists clamor for greater inclusion in popular movies. As this report indicates, that demand has gone unfulfilled. Despite the money, time, and energy invested in creating awareness or equipping filmmakers for opportunities that do not materialize, we have not seen change. Unfortunately, until content creators and companies adopt evidence-based solutions to exclusionary hiring and casting practices, it is unlikely that anything will.

At this point in time, activists and industry leaders shouldn’t have to beg for change. How many times does stuff like this have to occur? For an industry that claims to be progressive, it is one of the most archaic industries out there. What can we do to actually improve representation and inclusion? Do we work from the top down, or the bottom up? The study proposed a set of tasks aimed at remedying the crisis.

  • Target Inclusion Goals: To start this is something that needs to tread carefully, because it can backfire if not done correctly- which can lead to tokenism and exclusion from others. Companies need to seek other outlets to find underrepresented talents.
  • Inclusive Consideration Lists: Many, many companies and productions in the entertainment industry operate on the referral method. So if a company is lacking diversity, do you think they people that currently work for these places are going to recommend someone different? NO! Referring to the above point, companies should look outside their usual outlets for talents, or better yet remove their biases and find the best person for the job as opposed to just someone they know.
  • Ensure Environments Don’t Trigger Stereotypes: It’s honestly quite sad that this is still a problem. On the search for talent, a person’s sex, orientation, race, disability shouldn’t be a factor. But this stems from a much bigger problem, that’s deep rooted in our society. Talents should be encouraged in their creativity and treated as equals.
  • Combatting implicit and explicit biases: This aims to aid with the biases in casting background and small speaking parts.
  • Equity Clause: This means that high-profile talents demand equity with talent on screen and behind. This ensures inclusion in a production from the ground up. Not too many people do this, but it really sheds light on diversity issues when someone in a position of power speaks out.
  • Consumer Support: Vote with your money. Support inclusive projects, and don’t go/watch projects that aren’t inclusive.

In my opinion, exclusion in the entertainment industry is not something that is going to change overnight- if ever. The issues are deep rooted. There are only a handful of people in the industry with significant power- and guess who they are? They worked their way up and set the rules and tone for the industry today, and they employed/mentored people who think the same way, and those people will do the same. It starts from the bottom too. We need to reform mail rooms, productions, and internships. The entry-level workers of today are the leaders of tomorrow. And who are the people moving forward and given the most access? Really think about it.

We should keep the activism alive, but remember that it’s going to be a long haul until we’re satisfied with the changes.

ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST

Adriana is a twenty-something living in San Diego. She's passionate about films, traveling, and writing. She's a recent college graduate, current Marketing Coordinator and Content Writer.

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