The increasingly diverse American population prefers to see more diverse movies and television shows, but minorities and women continue to be completely overshadowed in the entertainment industry on both sides of the camera, according to a UCLA report released Wednesday.
“From the earliest days of the industry, white males have dominated the plum positions in front of and behind the camera, thereby marginalizing women and minorities in the creative process by which a nation circulates popular stories about itself,” according to the report by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “What’s new is that business as usual in the Hollywood industry may soon be unsustainable. Evidence from this report … shows clearly that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse content created with the input of diverse talent. Diversity sells.
“The disconnect between this increasingly obvious fact and the stubborn fact of Hollywood’s race and gender problem poses an interesting conundrum: How can we flip the script?”
According to the report — which is based on a review of 172 films released in 2012 and 175 released in 2013, along with 1,105 television shows airing in the 2012-13 season — minorities and women were under-represented “on every front.”
The report found minorities under-represented by more than 2 to 1 among film leads and directors, 3 to 1 among film writers and nearly 6 to 1 among leads in broadcast television scripted programs. Women were similarly outnumbered, according to the report, although they were outnumbered by 8 to 1 among film directors.
In executive positions, white males remained the dominant presence, the report found. Film studio heads were 94 percent white and 100 percent male, according to the report, while television network and studio heads were 96 percent white and 71 percent male.
But the report found that films with more diverse casts had the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment. Ratings among television views aged 18-49 peaked for broadcast and cable shows that “at least match the minority share of the population in terms of overall cast diversity,” according to the report. The ratings were also highest for shows in which minorities wrote between 21 percent and 30 percent of the episodes, the report found.
“Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for Hollywood’s race and gender problem,” according to the report. “It’s a multi-dimensional problem that requires innovative interventions on every front. It’s not a problem that will simply fix itself in the normal course of business.
“The ongoing disconnect between the marginalization of minorities and women in Hollywood and what we know today’s audiences desire should make this clear. Flipping the script will require a genuine commitment and considerable persistence.”
— City News Service