Don't Let 'Wonder Woman' Fool You. Hollywood Is As Male And White As Ever.
A new study shows that virtually nothing has changed when it comes to #OscarsSoWhite.
When it comes to gender and racial diversity in Hollywood, the optics recently have been pretty good: Moonlight beat out La La Land for Best Picture at the Oscars; Wonder Woman absolutely slayed at the box office, grossing almost $780 million to date; and Girls Trip earned $30.5 million in its opening weekend, making it the biggest debut for a live-action comedy this year. Win!
It’s tempting to believe this signals a change in the TV and film industry that's long been dominated by white men, and to be sure, the elevation of these films is significant, important and long overdue.
But according to the latest findings of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism—which has studied diversity in Hollywood since 2007—almost nothing has changed in terms of the representation of women, minorities, the LBGTIQ population and characters with disabilities.
The study has examined the 100 highest-grossing films every year since 2007, and for 2016, the findings analyzed 4,583 speaking roles. The percentage of women filling those roles came in at 31.4 percent—a figure that’s remained virtually unchanged since the start of the study.
In terms of race, 70.8 percent of the speaking roles were occupied by white actors; 13.6 were black; 5.7 were Asian; 3.1 were Hispanic; and less than 1 percent were Native American, Alaskan or Hawaiian.
In the context of our TV and film landscape representing who we are as a nation, women getting a third of the speaking roles—when they comprise half the population—represents a glaring disparity, as does as does the representation of Hispanic characters.
They comprise 17.8 percent of the population and speak on screen just 3.1 percent of the time. And despite nearly 18 percent of the population living with a disability, only 2.7 percent had speaking roles.
Unsurprisingly, women of color and LGBTIQ women are least represented of all: 47 films featured zero black women, 66 had no Asian women, 72 has no Hispanic women, and 91 had no LGBTQI female characters.
All of which is to say that despite powerful movements like #OscarsSoWhite, despite thinkpiece after thinkpiece about representation and actors publicly speaking out, Hollywood isn’t listening enough or doing enough.
Take Civil War drama, Confederate. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are clearly skilled in crafting narratives around power struggles. But GoT’s whiteness is glaring, and it’s this perceived lack of nuance and experience with narratives of marginalized populations that’s driving a substantial #NoConfederate movement on social media right now.
The issue ultimately comes down to who gets access to the means of storytelling. And from the dawn of film and television right up to today, the answer has resoundingly been “white men.”
As for us theater-goers and Netflix-bingers? Keep talking on Twitter, and definitely keep coming out in droves for films like Wonder Woman and Girls Trip, because money talks—especially in Tinsel Town.
Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Javier Pardina