NEW YORK– Hollywood is a “straight white boys club” on screen and off, according to a new study of the entertainment industry.
Women get fewer speaking roles than men, and also make up just a tiny percentage of movie directors and corporate executives at entertainment companies.
African Americans and other non-whites often serve as little more than token characters, when they appear on screen at all, the study found. Gay, lesbian and particularly transgender characters are virtually nonexistent.
“Hollywood has a diversity problem. The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club,” says the study, out Monday from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
Diversity is a top of mind issue ahead of Sunday’s Oscars ceremony. Stars including Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith are boycotting the presentation to protest the fact that all of the nominees in the most prominent dramatic categories are white.
The USC study is based on 414 stories produced by 10 companies through movies, TV and digital platforms. It involved more than 11,000 speaking characters as well as 10,000 people working behind the scenes.
The study — entitled “Inclusion or Invisibility?” — said that two-thirds of the characters in film were male, while women had only 28% of all speaking roles. Women are sexualized far more than men, stripping for the camera about three times as often. And only 3% of movie directors are women.
More than half of all stories featured no speaking characters who were Asian, and 22% featured no black characters at all, even as extras.
“The complete absence of individuals from these backgrounds is a symptom of a diversity strategy that relies on tokenistic inclusion rather than integration,” said the study.
The lack of inclusion was even more extreme for LGBT actors, who represented less than 2% of all speaking characters, the study said. Only seven transgender characters were identified.
The companies in the study included Netflix, Amazon, The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, which owns CNN.
21st Century Fox disputed the study’s figures and said other studies by GLADD, a prominent gay rights group, indicated the network had a higher percentage of racially and sexually diverse shows.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, announced measures last month to double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.
By Aaron Smith