New study says Hollywood’s “epidemic of invisibility” extends far beyond #OscarsSoWhite

The report shows that women, racial minorities and the LGBTQ community are all underrepresented in movies and the industry

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It appears as though the Oscars are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hollywood’s massive diversity problem.

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A new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism shows that women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ community are heavily underrepresented both behind and in front of the camera. 

The study comes in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy — for the second year in a row, the Academy failed to nominate any black actors for awards, prompting a number of stars like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith to boycott the ceremony.

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“The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite,” the study said. “Our findings show that an epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling.”

The report, which examined over 400 movies and scripted television shows from 2014 and 2015, aimed to broaden the discussion about diversity in Hollywood, especially by highlighting the lack of diversity outside of the heavily publicised #OscarsSoWhite discussion.

According to the study, less than 34 per cent of speaking roles in television and film went to women and girls, while an even lower 28 per cent of speaking roles went to racial minorities and a mere 2 per cent were identified as LGBT. Of that 2 percent, the vast majority of characters were white gay men, while lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters were nearly non-existent. Only 7 of over 11,000 speaking characters in film and TV were identified as transgender.

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Female characters of over 40 years of age, meanwhile, made up 25.7 per cent of all roles, whereas their male counterparts took up the remaining 74.3 percent. Female characters were also found to be more than four times as likely as men to be wearing sexualising clothing, and more than three times as likely to be shown in partial or full nudity.

Behind the camera, women were heavily outnumbered by men — 15.2 percent of directors in film and television were women, whereas women only made up 3.4 percent of directors in film alone. Only two of these directors were black women; Amma Asante, the director of Belle, and Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma.

The study also evaluated ten major media companies, including Disney, Universal and Netflix, and determined whether or not they could be considered “inclusive” based on diversity within five different categories. None of the companies were considered “inclusive” by the study. 

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“The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club,” the report claimed.

Along with its findings, the study offered a number of “solutions for change”, including the creation of target inclusion goals, a focus on counter-stereotypical stories and inclusive consideration lists for positions behind the camera. 

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“To achieve inclusion, companies need to embrace new approaches,” the study said. “These strategies must involve more than simply ‘checking a box’ when casting a film, series, or episode, or go beyond making a ‘diversity hire’ behind the camera or in the executive suite.”