As we close out Emmy Awards season, we are reminded of the talented group of marginalized people who have overcome the odds and prevailed in an industry dominated by mostly white, mostly male industry professionals. And in a study from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in partnership with National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment called “Latinos in Film: Erasure On Screen & Behind the Camera”, research proves that Hollywood has failed the Latinx community when it comes to their portrayal in popular movies.
The comprehensive and in-depth study examined the prevalence of Latino characters on-screen across 1,200 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018. In addition, it shed light on the lack of Latinxs working as directors, producers, and casting directors. On top of that, a qualitative analysis explored stereotyping of Latinx actors and characters across 200 top films from 2017 and 2018.
According to the study, women represented 49% of the leads or co-leads. However, 5 of those 17 roles went to only one female actress (Cameron Diaz). Only 4.5% of all 47,268 speaking or named characters across the last 12 years were Latinx, as were a mere 3% of lead or co-lead actors. This is not reflective of the size and impact of the Latinx community as 77% of U.S. states and territories have a population of Latinos greater than the percentage seen in Hollywood films.
“The Latino community has not been prioritized, and it is imperative that we shed light on the glaring reality of Latino representation in film,” said Benjamin Lopez, Executive Director of NALIP. “NALIP has positioned itself to be the elegant solution to this complex problem through our commitment to building the pipeline of Latino talent and sustainable development in the industry. Dr. Smith’s research must guide decision-makers to the conclusion that there is immense value in collaborating with and investing in the Latino community.”
The study also finds that a majority of Latinx characters reflect stereotypical portrayals of the Latinx community with roughly a quarter of both top-billed and all Latinx speaking characters across 200 movies depicted as criminals, and 17% of all Latino speaking characters portrayed as poor or with a lower income. Just under a quarter (24%) of all of Latino speaking characters and 28% of top billed Latino talent were depicted as law breakers across a range of violent and non-violent crimes. Over half (61.9%) of all characters shown engaged in illegal ac- tivity were part of an organized crime group such as gang members or drug dealers. Thirty-eight percent of criminals were depicted committing fraud, thievery, murder, or having previously been in prison for reasons not made clear in the film.
In addition, the report includes several suggestions that individuals, organizations, and companies can use to increase the opportunities for Latinx actors and content creators to work in Hollywood.