Despite the emergence of film and television series heralded for their diversity, such as Black Panther, Girls Trip, Atlanta and Black-ish, Darnell Hunt, sociologist and co-author of UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report, maintains little has changed both in front of and behind the camera.
Hunt highlighted key trends of the five-year study that took place from 2012 to 2016, specifying how, despite the annual steady increase of the national minority population, representation in Hollywood remains disproportionate. The study, titled "Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities," focused on 11 main arenas and their proportion of people of color and women in various film, broadcast, cable and digital sectors.
In terms of gender parity in film director roles, Hunt said it was “the single worst statistic in our study” and called attention to the importance of highlighting female helmers like Gina Prince Bythewood and Felicia D. Henderson, who also spoke at the evening's panel.
Henderson, currently working on the TV series The Quad and Marvel’s The Punisher, said the success story of Black Panther, while deserving of praise, was worrisome.
“You see change, but you don’t see consistent change,” she said. “The more you see a success story like Black Panther, while you celebrate it, you’re also freaking out because you don’t want it to be a moment. ... So how do we do that, so it’s a movement instead of a moment?”
Behind the camera, statistics showed most of the executive decision-making is being carried out by white males in both television and film. The report also found that films and TV shows perform best with 21 percent-30 percent minority casting, and yet the trend of disproportionate casting remains.
The report discusses the effects of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements:
"Hollywood's enduring failure to correct the gender disparities chronicled in this report series has locked many women out of influential roles and entrenched a patriarchal occupational culture within the entertainment industry. But this year - as the previous two did for people of color - marked a potential turning point for women in Hollywood. Sparked by the public revelation of rampant sexual misconduct and the mistreatment of women in the workplace, the Me Too movement also shed light on long-entrenched gender biases and the structural barriers to women's entry into and mobility within entertainment careers. The momentum of the Me Too movement inspired prominent women in the entertainment industry to initiate the Time's Up movement, a comprehensive agenda aimed at promoting equality and safety in the workplace through legislative initiatives, changes in corporate policies and hiring practices, and legal support for men and women with workplace sexual harassment and assault cases.
Read the full Hollywood Diversity Report 2018 here.
Taken together, these movements offer both symbolic and concrete solutions to Hollywood's gender diversity problem. By reshaping common understandings of harassment, sexual violence and workplace power dynamics, they lay the groundwork for actionable initiatives to redress gender-based inequalities. Meanwhile, increasing women's representation in leadership and executive positions would help normalize enlightened sensitivities around gender roles, facilitate the establishment of accountability frameworks, and neutralize informal occupational norms that have worked to marginalize women in Hollywood. Increasing the representation of women in Hollywood's executive suites would also address the most distressing gender diversity numbers presented in this report, and, ultimately, transform how women are represented on the big and small screen."
The ultimate conclusions of the report "[add] to the growing body of evidence that diversity is essential for Hollywood's bottom line . . . Global box office and television ratings, on average, are highest for films and television shows with relatively diverse casts. Indeed, a consideration of top 10 films and television shows underscores how important diverse audiences have become as drivers of box office and ratings, and that these highly engaged audiences prefer diverse content. But the charts below also reveal missed opportunities. For example, we see below that Hollywood continues to produce a plurality of films and television shows with casts that are 10 percent minority or less, despite the fact that these projects are collectively among the poorest performers. It also appears as if the industry undersells the relatively small number of films with diverse leads and casts in a global market that is primed to connect with them."
Some of the above has been excerpted from the news coverage of the study in The Hollywood Reporter. Read the full article here.
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Last updated: Mar. 2, 2018