Hollywood is not projecting the increasing diversity of the U.S. on the silver screen, according to a USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism study released on Monday.
Latinos remain the most underrepresented ethnic group in films, the study found, even though they are a a growing part of the country’s population and the most frequeent moviegoers.
The study looked at characters who spoke one or more words in the top grossing films from the past six years. In 2013 alone, about a quarter of of the 3,932 speaking characters evaluated were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.
In the U.S., Latino people account for 17.1% of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013, while on screen they comprise of 4.9% of characters. The study also showed that Hispanic representation on the big screen has remained relatively stagnant over the years.
“If popular films were the only way to gauge diversity, viewers would be completely unaware of this,” said Marc Choueiti, one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “Individuals from this group are almost invisible on the screen.”
White characters continue to have the most screen time. About 74 percent of the actors in the films were white, compared to 63 percent of U.S. population being non-Hispanic white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The study shows that though black characters are gaining more screen time in the past year, overall it still was not comparable to the percentage of African-Americans in the country. Last year, several films that portrayed African-Americans in U.S. history became box-office hits, such as “42” about baseball legend Jackie Robinson and “12 Years a Slave,” about institutional slavery in 1800s.
“The voices heralding that 2013 was a banner year for black characters in film must be thinking of a few salient examples,” said Professor Stacy L. Smith, who authored the study. “In reality, we saw no meaningful difference in the representation of characters from underrepresented backgrounds across the six years we studied.”
The low representation of ethnic groups was found in kidvids as well. Less than 15 percent of characters in animated films from 2007, 2010 and 2013 were from an underrepresented group. 2010 represented the low point, with 1.5% of characters reflected any racial or ethnic diversity.