STUDY: The Oscars Aren’t the Only Thing That’s #SoWhite About Hollywood

By Kenrya Rankin Feb 22, 2016

A new study from University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism says that #OscarsSoWhite is just the tip of the exclusionary iceberg in the film, television and digital content industry. 

Released today (February 22), “Inclusion or Invisibility?: Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment” examines 10 major media companies to see how good they are at including people of color, women and LGBT people both behind and in front of the camera. Researchers collected data on characters, crew and top brass for 109 films released domestically in 2014 and 305 programs released via broadcast, cable and digital platforms that first aired September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2015. The companies included in the study are: 21st Century Fox, Amazon, CBS, Comcast NBC Universal, Hulu, Netflix, Sony, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner and Viacom.

“We’re seeing that there’s not just a diversity problem in Hollywood; there’s actually an inclusion crisis,” Stacy L. Smith, study co-author and founding director USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, told NPR

Key findings:

Race and Ethnicity

  • Of the 10,444 speaking or named characters “with enough cues to ascertain race/ethnicity,” just 28.3 percent are people of color, versus 37.9 percent in the actual U.S. population. The breakdown: 71.7 percent White, 12.2 percent Black, 5.8 percent Latino, 5.1 percent Asian, 2.3 percent Middle Eastern, 3.1 percent other. 
  • For television and digital series, only 26.6 percent of series regulars are people of color.
  • At least half of all films and series completely omit Asian and Asian American speaking and named characters. 
  • Black women are the least likely people to be portrayed on screened, with just 33.9 percent of all Black characters presented as women. Latinas (37.9 percent) appear more often that all other women, including White women (34.3 percent). 
  • Behind the scenes, 87 percent of directors evaluated across all platforms are White. Breaking out those numbers: People of color make up just 9.6 percent of directors for broadcast productions, 11.4 percent for streaming, 12.7 percent for film and 16.8 percent for cable shows.

Gender and Sexuality

  • Of the 11,306 speaking characters counted and evaluated for role, demographics, hypersexualization and domesticity, just 33.5 percent are presented as women. That number was even lower for film, where women fill just 28.7 percent of all speaking roles. 
  • Only 2 percent of all speaking characters are coded by researchers as being lesbian, gay or bisexual. And only seven speaking or named characters are identified as being transgender people.
  • When it comes to lead characters, there is a wide disparity between film and television/digital series. Just 26.5 percent of leads are women in film, versus 42 percent for television and film.
  • Of the 4,284 directors included in the study, only 15.2 percent are women. That number plummets to 3.4 percent when film directors are isolated. And just 28.9 percent of screenwriters are women, and only 22.6 percent of digital and television series creators are women.
  • Just 21 percent of the C-level staff at the included companies are women. Only television approaches gender parity when it comes to top female executives: 45.1 percent of them are women, versus 33.1 percent in film and 32.9 percent for digital streaming companies.

Researchers also evaluated each company individually. Among film distributors, only Sony and Viacom included enough people of color on screen in its projects to earn the title “fully inclusive,” while no company had enough representation behind the scenes to shake the “not inclusive” label. For television and digital platforms, Viacom and Hulu were deemed fully inclusive of people of color on screen.