Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite tweet a few years ago, there has been an increased awareness of the general lack of diversity, equality and inclusion in the global film and TV industry. UCLA’s 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report says yes, but not enough.
National Public Radio The annual Hollywood Diversity Report looks at diversity in front of and behind the camera, as well as at the box office and ratings.
The root It sets the scene.
USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative did some research and found some unsurprising results: Of the nearly 50,000 characters in the 1,100 most popular movies between 2007 and 2017 who had speaking roles, more than 70 percent of those characters were white. In contrast, about 12% were black and less than 7% were Asian or Latinx. Looking at gender over the decade, men were more than twice as likely as women to play a speaking role.
The good news is that there is more awareness of this, and with awareness, action is being taken.
A young, diverse audience wants fresh, diverse content
UCLA professor of sociology and African-American studies Darnell Hunt, who co-authored the 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report, says the industry’s perspective on diversity has changed since his group’s first study was published in 2014:
When we started studying diversity… it was seen as a luxury, something you wanted to achieve but not something that drove day-to-day business practices. Over time, as it became clear that audiences were becoming more diverse and wanted different content, diversity itself became a business imperative. Like, ‘We need to find ways to create more diverse products because that’s what today’s increasingly diverse audience is asking for.’ That’s a relatively new phenomenon … most people wouldn’t have been talking about this, you know, five, 10 years ago. Everyone is talking about it today.
Difference It makes sure there are gains for women and minorities on TV, but not so much in movies. Those gains in television over the past six years have been largely driven by an explosion in original programming, from six Netflix titles in 2011-12 to 93 in 2016-17. Millennials are consuming digital scenes as their preferred platform, so diversity is a must.
Afrofuturism and Afrofeminism to the forefront
But change takes time and luckily it’s not all talk, no action to take the trend to the big screen. There are signs of the transformation process both on screen and behind the camera.
I would be remiss not to mention the Marvel influence. Black Panther.
Not only are the characters well-developed in this futuristic fantasy film, but it also sets forth the concepts of Afrofuturism, Afrofeminism, and African pride for filmmakers and moviegoers alike.
Female movie firebrand Ava DuVernay with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and also He And The Lego Movie Producer Dan Lin on the Evolve Entertainment Fund.
It’s a comprehensive diversity initiative to find more women, people of color, and people from low-income families who accurately reflect life today.
As Hollywood’s lenses change, hopefully the rest of the world will follow suit.