Hol­ly­wood shows lit­tle change in di­ver­sity

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Hol­ly­wood is still Hol­ly­wood when it comes to di­ver­sity, and “in­equal­ity is an in­dus­try norm in film,” ac­cord­ing to a re­port that an­a­lyzed top movies re­leased in 2015.

The anal­y­sis, con­ducted by the Me­dia, Di­ver­sity, and Social Change Ini­tia­tive at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (USC) An­nen­berg School for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Jour­nal­ism, showed that the re­sults are “both star­tling and con­sis­tent” with the find­ings from pre­vi­ous years.

De­spite ad­vo­cacy and “good in­ten­tions, change re­mains dif­fi­cult to achieve”, said the re­port re­leased on Sept 7.

“We’re see­ing en­trenched in­equal­ity,” said Stacy L. Smith, a USC pro­fes­sor and the study’s lead au­thor, in an

"We’re see­ing en­trenched in­equal­ity.” Stacy L. Smith, USC pro­fes­sor and lead au­tor of di­ver­sity study

in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“Whether we’re study­ing gen­der, race, eth­nic­ity, LGBT or char­ac­ters with dis­abil­i­ties, we’re re­ally see­ing ex­clu­sion­ary forces leav­ing out any­body that’s not a straight, white, able-bod­ied man.

“De­spite all the chat­ter and all the ac­tivism and all the press at­ten­tion, it’s an­other year where the sta­tus quo has been main­tained,” she said.

Lack of di­ver­sity in Hol­ly­wood has been a ma­jor point of dis­cus­sion this year and par­tic­u­larly last year fol­low­ing con­tro­versy around the Academy Awards fail­ing to nom­i­nate non-white ac­tors and ac­tresses, which was al­ready a point of con­tention in the pre­vi­ous year’s awards sea­son. The Academy swiftly re­sponded by com­mit­ting to di­ver­sify its mem­ber­ship by 2020.

The re­port said that Hol­ly­wood’s de­pic­tions of women, peo­ple of color, the LGBT com­mu­nity, and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties do not re­flect pop­u­la­tion norms.

Only 26.3 per­cent of char­ac­ters in the movies an­a­lyzed are from eth­nic racial groups, rep­re­sent­ing 12.1 per­cent less than those in the US pop­u­la­tion.

“While ex­am­in­ing char­ac­ters across films al­lows for pop­u­la­tion com­par­isons, un­der­stand­ing how of­ten dif­fer­ent groups are ab­sent al­to­gether from the screen is cru­cial,” said the re­port.

“Forty-nine films did not fea­ture even one Asian or Asian Amer­i­can speak­ing or named char­ac­ter. Sim­i­larly, 40 cast no speak­ing or named His­panic/Latino char­ac­ters, and 17 de­picted not one Black or African Amer­i­can speak­ing or named char­ac­ter,” it said.

Char­ac­ters of Asian de­scent made up 3.9 per­cent of all speak­ing char­ac­ters, de­spite rep­re­sent­ing 5.6 per­cent of the US pop­u­la­tion. Fe­males were less than one-third of all speak­ing char­ac­ters in the movies, even though they make up half the pop­u­la­tion and half of movie ticket buy­ers, USC said.

“The in­tense scru­tiny on Hol­ly­wood over the past sev­eral years has placed the Academy Awards in the crosshairs of ad­vo­cates, most no­tably through the #Os­carsSoWhite cam­paign,” USC said, re­fer­ring to the hash­tag started on Twit­ter af­ter 2016 Os­car nom­i­na­tions were an­nounced, with no per­son of color hav­ing been picked in any of the four act­ing cat­e­gories.

But the prob­lems in­di­cated in the re­port pre­date the Twit­ter-in­spired dis­cus­sions over di­ver­sity, and the in­dus­try must over­come its two ma­jor hur­dles: lack of imag­i­na­tion and will­ing­ness to change, it said.

More must be done to be in­clu­sive not only in front of the cam­era but be­hind the cam­era as well, USC rec­om­mended. The num­ber of non­white males di­rect­ing or pro­duc­ing films re­mains low.

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