Study: Film Still Mostly White, Straight and Male

Dope Cannes Film Festival
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

While hosting this year’s Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris joked that the awards show honors “Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry, brightest.” The comment has a troubling amount of truth behind it.

A new USC study confirms the lack of diversity in film that Harris lambasted. Nearly three quarters (73.1%) of all the speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing movies of 2014 were white, according to Inequality in 700 Popular Films, a study from the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The study examined gender, race and ethnicity in films from 2007 to 2014. The report found 4.9% of all speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing movies of 2014 were Hispanics or Latinos, who comprise 17% of the population. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Hispanics account for 25% of frequent moviegoers, while Asians make up 8% of the population and 9% of frequent moviegoers. African-Americans comprise 12% of all moviegoers.

(Click here for larger PDF.)

Along gender lines, 30.2% of the 30,835 speaking characters evaluated were female across the 700 top‐grossing films and only 11% of the films had gender‐balanced casts or featured girls/women in roughly half (45‐54.9%) of the speaking roles.

(Click here to see larger PDF.)

Only 17 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a main actor from an underrepresented ethnic group and a full 17 films did not feature a single black character. Across the 100 top films of 2014, only five of the 107 directors (4.7%) were black — only one was female and black. Of the films with a black director, 40.2% of all characters were black. When the director was not black, only 10.6% of all onscreen speaking or named characters were black. The report also found only 45 black directors have been attached to the 700 top‐grossing films – that means just 5.8% of all top-grossing films in the last seven years were directed by black directors.

Only 19 Asian directors worked across the 700 top‐grossing films, meaning just 2.4% of recent top-grossing films were directed by Asians. (Only one Asian co-director was female across the films analyzed.)

Across 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top films of 2014, only 19 were lesbian, gay or bisexual. Not one transgender character was portrayed. Ten characters were coded as gay, four were lesbian and five were bisexual. Only 14 movies sample wide featured an LGB depiction and none of those films were animated.

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  1. adam says:

    Where is the article about bollywood movies featuring few white people? Oh right you are not allowed to accuse asians of racism

    • Other Asian dude says:

      No, but it’s totally cool if you colonize their country for hundreds of years, kill millions of their people through manufactured famines during world war 2, parade yourself as a hero after killing just as many innocent people as your enemy (if not more, really), use media empires to rob them of their identity or actively mock it, wear brown face in chip ads, and generally be a dick in comments sections.

      So, I think that’s kind of a fair trade. You get to do all and then after like 50 years of not doing some of that, expect us all to be cool with you.

      Also, you’d actually be surprised by the number of white people in Bollywood movies. Try watching some. Ya know, instead of accusing people of reverse racism on a comments section while you have an obvious position of power because of your skin color where others have the exact opposite.

  2. Raj says:

    please tell me IF WHAT YOU SAY IS COMPLETELY TRUE THEN WHY DIDNT WOMEN IN USA AND DEVELOPED NATIONS MADE A GOOD WOMAN CENTRIC FILM “AMELIA” A FLOP…WHY DIDNT WOMEN GO TO THEATRES AND MADE IT A HIT…WHAT A GREAT LADY SHE WAS….WHY WAS IT FLOP…IT HAD OSCAR AWARD WINNER HILLARY SWANK AS LEAD ACTRESS AND I LOVE HER ACTING…and why do people bring race,religion n sex in Art…and the people who whine about such things don’t understand that PEOPLE WHO TAKE INITIATIVE IN WATCHING DIFFERENT FILMS AT THE THEATRES, AND PEOPLE WHO TAKE EFFORT IN MAKING CAREERS AS ACTORS,DIRECTORS, SCREENWRITERS AND THAT TOO GOOD ONES WILL BE REPRESENTED..Film industry isn’t a slave to prejudices and one shouldn’t forget that millions of dollars are needed to be invested then a good Hollywood Film is made and one will invest keeping in mind which people are loyal towards watching different genres of Films…

  3. BillUSA says:

    I realize that paying attention to reality is something rarely exercised in Hollyweird, but the country is still mostly white and straight with males holding most of the positions of power. haven’t said anything beyond that including how I felt about it. So don’t try to get creative on me in order to put your personal insecurities at my feet.

    • Paula Stiles says:

      Your argument makes no sense. Women comprise 51% of the population and most films don’t revolve around the top 1% of the population. So, why, exactly, should films be all about white, straight men? Or do you think women just don’t go to the movies?

  4. Asian dude says:

    This is nothing new for Asians. It’s a big part of why I cut the cord and rarely go to movies anymore.

  5. Michael says:

    So what?

  6. Kurt says:

    Hollywood has no one to blame but themselves. I have no say in who gets cast in movies, what movies get made, who gets paid what, and so forth. Hollywood does. And if the liberals out there aren’t casting more blacks, women, Asians, transgender, gays, etc. it’s for one reason: they don’t sell as well as white. If they did, things would be different.

    • Other Asian dude says:

      That’s actually an incredibly ridiculous comment. We’re in a global market now, and I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but most of the world is not white. Maybe ya don’t really reallize that Bollywood makes three times the number of films that America makes annually. Or that the number one television show in the world is a Spanish soap opera. The fact of the matter is that writers and directors are actively told by producers, agents, and studio execs that their films will not be made if they feature a main character that is a minority or female. This is not a problem perpetuated by the market, the public’s taste, or even filmmakers, it’s one that comes from the highest echelons of Hollywood’s nepotistic mostly white ranks. And it’s because they themselves can’t comprehend a perspective other than their own priveledged point of view.

      • Paula Stiles says:

        Actually, Kurt was claiming (hardly just implying) that films with non-white or gender-balanced casts don’t sell well because the audience doesn’t want to watch them. What Other Asian dude is pointing out is that those films don’t get made in the first place because Hollywood execs don’t want to make them (let alone promote them), not because they wouldn’t be profitable. There are plenty of indications that such films would sell just fine–if they were made–and that other film industries are proving that by making them.

      • BillUSA says:

        That’s what he was implying…

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