Written by Leanna Westerhof. Media by John Freeman.
Lately, there’s been an outcry. An outcry for more diversity in the film and television industry.
It’s come to attention that the big screen does not accurately represent the diversity in our country. We are presented with a narrow world view when only a certain type of man chooses the stories that are told. Through these stories we see on television, our perception of the world and reality is shaped by a limited perspective. This could include how societies are viewed as well as values and lessons. What is seen on screen affects the way people live their lives. Unfortunately, television and film tends to lack inclusivity–stories can leave people out. We are missing stories about diversity found in our own backyard.
Gender. Multiple studies show that females are underrepresented in film and television even though they make up just over half of the population. Only 28.7% of women fulfill speaking roles in film. It’s also been found out that when casting for older roles (40’s or older), the vast majority are given to men. Women only hold down 25.7% in these roles while men hold 74.3%. Behind the camera, the gap is even wider with only 3.4% of film directors being women. Screen writing found similar results with only 28.9% being female. There is also the issue of sexualization in Hollywood. Women are more likely to be found in roles that portray them as physically attractive, nude, and wearing scanty clothing.
Ethnicity/Race. Non-white racial/ethnic groups constitute 40% of the population in the U.S. The same study found that speaking roles were 71.7% White, 12.2% Black, 5.8% Hispanic/Latino, 5.1% Asian, 2.3% Middle Eastern and 3.1% Other. Obviously, the diversity we see in our every day lives does not match up with what we see on scree of color. It’s been shown that women who are over 40 are largely invisible. In fact, half of the TV shows and films that have been analyzed do not include a single speaking role for Asians. Furthermore, Hispanics are 17% of the population in the U.S. and on screen their demographic is 5.8%.
LGBT. “Only 22 of the 126 films major releases of 2015 included characters identified as LGBT,” This adds up to 17.5%. When the LGBT community is represented, most of them are gay white men. About three quarters of LGBT characters have less than 10 minutes on screen. No matter how you feel about the LGBT community, they are a part society and have been since the beginning of time. Just like women and ethnic minorities, they are being excluded from Hollywood.
Solutions. How can we fix this problem? Stacy Smith proposes a number of things that Hollywood and the audience can do to fix this problem of exclusivity in her “TED Talk.” One possible solution is having film companies hire more diverse directors; such as women or ethnic minorities. When there are more women and ethnic minorities behind the screen, it has the effect of varying the stories and ethnicities that are portrayed on film and television. Smith also proposes that adding five female characters to every script in the top 100 films of next year could cause the gap of gender equality to disappear in three years. For us, that means spending money on films that accurately portray diversity–it means speaking up about this issue and engaging with it on social media.
It’s a fact: Hollywood has a diversity problem. What we see on screen does not match our world. People are starting to speak out. The diverse population of the United States is crying out for more diversity on their viewing screens. The next time you watch a movie, go to the movies, or binge watch your favorite television show on Netflix, pay attention. Pay attention to the world around you and whether your screen is accurately portraying the demographic around us.
Awareness is the first step in solving any problem.