I’m always careful in reading through summaries of diversity reports when discussing Hollywood and Entertainment. For the latest report compiled by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, I read through Variety Magazine’s summary with an unsurprising yet hopeful feeling. When analyzing nearly 40,000 characters in 900 films, tailoring it to focus on diverse performers, according to Variety, almost nothing has changed since 2007 (not including 2011).
The report found that of the films surveyed in 2016, 31.4% of speaking characters were female, unchanged from 2015 and not much higher than the 29.9% logged in 2007. The overall ratio of male to female characters was 2.3 to 1, and 34 films had a female lead or co-lead, compared to 32 in 2015.
Despite these numbers, I can’t help but feel a bit more hopeful with the recent successes and investment into films such as Wonder Woman, Lowriders, Black Panther, and A Wrinkle in Time. In addition another figure given out sites that “72 of 2016’s top 100 films had no Hispanic or Latina female speaking roles, and 91 had none for LGBTQ females.” While negative at first, I have to wonder…what is the percentage of Latina and LGBTQ females in America and the Globe? Now I’m not saying films should match ethnic breakdowns by race 100%, (I think simplifying it to that degree is missing the point) but I do think that the current numbers aren’t terrible. With the recent moment of diversity in film the past 2 years specifically, I do believe there is reason to be positive.
Let’s face it, pre-2014, films like Lucy, Get Out, and Lowriders would be hard to Green Light, let alone thought of as money makers. Stand alone films starring minority and female characters are gaining traction and succeeding when people thought they couldn’t.
The truth is, we know past opportunities for diversity in entertainment was low, but while the overall number of characters as a percentage may be similar, the quality of on screen characters, and behind the screen opportunities are different. I think that’s the first step towards fundamental change that can stick. I think over the next 2 to 3 years, if we do not see more increases, we will have greater issues, but for now, as a person focusing on the start of change being 2014, I have a positive outlook moving forward.