Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but remained disproportionately represented in most areas of the entertainment industry, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
“In both film and television, women and minorities remained notably underrepresented in every arena in 2016,” the report, which is part of an ongoing series on the subject, read. “Reports in this series have repeatedly found that films and television shows with casts attuned to America’s diversity tend to register the highest global box office figures and viewer ratings. The industry appears to have finally embraced the idea that America’s increasingly diverse audiences demand film and television content populated with characters whose experiences resonate with their own, who look like them, and with whom they can relate.”
The report, titled “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” is the fifth in five years from the center headed by Dr. Darnell Hunt. The report points out that the nation consisted of nearly 40% minorities in 2016 — the last year examined — and states the percentage will only increase in the coming years.
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“There is still a long way to go before women or people of color reach proportionate representation among the actors in film and television, but at least the trend lines for both groups point in the right direction,” the report added.
Gains were primarily confined to digital scripted shows for female leads, broadcast television for leads, and show creators of color. The report emphasized that positive trends for women and minorities in film were much less pronounced.
“Unfortunately, the industry has been much slower to accept the related truth that its success in providing today’s (and tomorrow’s) audiences with what they crave also hinges on the presence of diverse talent behind the camera — in the director’s chair, in the writers’ room, and in executive suites,” the report said. “The resulting missed opportunities, this report series has documented, are not good for Hollywood’s bottom line.”
The report was written before the launch of Disney-Marvel’s “Black Panther,” which, with a black cast and director, has become a smash hit with more than $700 million in worldwide grosses in less than two weeks.
“Film projects have become increasingly reliant on foreign financing, talent, and audiences for success,” the report noted. “But in today’s globalized movie industry, there is a myth promoted by Hollywood decision makers that foreign audiences will automatically reject films centered around people of color. Indeed, the conventional ‘wisdom’ in the film industry has been that ‘black films don’t travel,’ and this notion has posed a longstanding obstacle to advancing diversity in Hollywood, particularly among film leads and directors.”
Minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9%), film directors (12.6%), film writers (8.1%), broadcast scripted leads (18.7%), cable scripted leads (20.2%), broadcast reality and other leads (26.6%) and leads for cable reality and other leads (20.9%).
Women posted gains in all the key employment arenas since the previous report, with the exception of four — film directors, broadcast scripted show leads, cable scripted show creators, and broadcast scripted show creators. They are underrepresented among film leads (31.2%), film directors (6.9%), film writers (13.8%), broadcast scripted leads (35.7%), cable scripted leads (44.8%) and broadcast reality and other leads (18.8%).