New facts on Film’s ‘Epidemic Of Invisibility’ For Women, Minorities

By Mark Olsen and Oliver Gettell
Los Angeles Times.

A new USC study has found that women had less than one-third of the speaking roles in the top-grossing films between 2007 and 2014, another indication of the extent of Hollywood’s longstanding gender and diversity problems.

The study by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released on Wednesday painted a picture of an industry with glaring inequalities both on-screen and behind the camera.

Researchers called the report “clearly the most comprehensive longitudinal research report on gender and race/ethnicity” to date. The results are not encouraging for anyone seeking signs of progress regarding diversity in Hollywood.

“I feel like we now have a map, a picture, of what we’ve been calling the epidemic of invisibility on-screen,” said Stacy L. Smith, a professor at USC and director of the Media, Diversity initiative.

According to the report, females represented just 30.2 percent of all speaking characters across those 700 movies. Only 11 percent of the films were gender balanced or featured girls/women in roughly half of all speaking parts.

The report examined the 100 top-grossing films released each year from 2007 to 2014 (excluding 2011) and found that women, minorities and LGBT people are statistically underrepresented as speaking or named characters.

Smith said one of the big surprises for her in the study was the lack of roles for women middle aged or older. For example, in 2014 there were 21 films with a female lead or co-lead but none of those roles were for characters 45 years of age or older. In comparison, there were 30 male lead or co-lead roles in which the character was 45 or older.

The study also pointed to a lack of progress in portraying minority characters. In the 100 top films in 2014, less than 27 percent of speaking characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, according to the report, which noted that 17 of those 100 films featured no African American characters.

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