Hollywood faces a diversity crisis, report finds

Study shows minorities are vastly underrepresented in film industry ahead of Oscars

 A pre-Academy Awards ceremony  in Beverly Hills, California, US. File photograph: Patrick T Fallon

A pre-Academy Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, US. File photograph: Patrick T Fallon


It is not just the Oscars that have a diversity problem. Women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community are vastly underrepresented throughout Hollywood, according to a report published on Monday ahead of next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

The report looked at 109 films and 305 television and digital series released in 2014 and found that only 28 per cent of all speaking characters are people of colour - some 9 per cent below the make-up of the US population.

“The results reveal that the prequel to #OscarsSoWhite is #HollywoodSoWhite,” said the report by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” said the report’s author, Prof Stacy L Smith.

The study was published seven days before the February 28th Oscars ceremony in Hollywood - the movie industry’s biggest night - which has been overshadowed this year by a furore over the all-white line-up in the lead and supporting acting categories.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, responded by announcing plans in January to double its numbers of women and minority members by 2020.

Of the 414 movies and TV series studied in the new report, one-third of speaking characters were female, and two per cent were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the report found.

Behind the camera

Behind the camera, a mere 15 per cent of all directors and 29 per cent of writers across film and television were women.

“Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20 per cent featured no African-American characters.

“It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary,” Prof Smith said.

The USC report reflects the findings of other studies in recent years that have looked separately at the representation of women, people of colour, and LGBT characters in Hollywood’s movies or television industries.