The Oscars have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. But on a positive note, after years of being largely shut out of contention, it was amazing to see actors, writers, directors and a cinematographer of color among the nominees and recipients of the 2017 Academy Awards.
However, the bigger issue of diversity in Hollywood across the board still looms large. UCLA’s fourth annual Hollywood Diversity Report published by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, reveals the exclusion of people of color and women from Hollywood remains a concern.
The report examines the 200 top-grossing theatrical film releases in 2015, as well as 1,206 TV, cable and digital platform shows from the 2014–15 season. It tracks hiring of women and minorities, both on screen and behind the camera, in 11 job types.
People of color made some progress in five of the 11 categories – lead performers in films, lead performers in broadcast scripted shows, lead performers in broadcast reality shows, lead performers in digital scripted shows and creators of broadcast scripted shows.
However, minorities lost ground in four of the 11 job categories – film directors, film writers, lead actors in cable scripted shows and creators of digital scripted programs, and held ground in the other two – creators of cable scripted shows and lead performers in cable reality and other programs.
Minorities make up 40 percent of the U.S. population but only 13.6 percent of lead actors in theatrical films and 10.1 percent of Hollywood directors. In the latest study, women were even more underrepresented than they were in the 2016 report among lead performers in broadcast reality and other programs and among lead performers in cable reality shows.
Despite making up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, women got just 29 percent of lead acting roles in theatrical films, and only 7.7 percent of the directors of the top 200 films were women.
“While there have been some improvements, especially in television, the numbers remain disheartening across the board,” said Darnell Hunt, the report’s lead author and director of the Bunche Center. “At the heart of it is the fact that Hollywood is simply not structured to make the most of today’s market realities. In terms of representation and opportunity, we still have a long way to go. White men are still dominant, and women and people of color struggle to get the opportunities to succeed.”
Hunt said audiences are only becoming more diverse, and they’ve demonstrated that they search for stories that reflect our more diverse world — factors that will be critical for Hollywood’s long-term success.
“When a business is overlooking the desires of its customer base, it is serving them poorly and leaving money on the table,” he said. “For a variety of reasons, studios, networks and talent agencies — the institutions that decide what films and shows will get made and how they are promoted — have to diversify so they are no longer demographically and culturally out of step with their audiences.”
Post by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema