While accepting an honorary Oscar last year, director Spike Lee said it was “easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio.”
Lee’s blunt statement pointed to the industry’s bleak representation of gender, race and ethnicity both on screen and behind the scenes. A new study, released Monday, called it an “inclusion crisis.”
The study found that the film and television industries are “largely whitewashed” and severely lacked representation for women, people of color and LGBT individuals. The problem, according to the study, extends beyond the all-white Oscar nominations for all four acting categories that have occurred the past two years.
“The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite, as our findings show that an epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling,” said Stacy L. Smith, co-author of the report, compiled by the Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
The industry-wide report surveyed more than 400 films, TV and digital series that were produced by major studios and networks between 2014 and 2015. Out of more than 11,000 speaking or named characters, only a third were women, while fewer than 30 percent went to nonwhite actors.
Additionally, more than half of the stories featured no Asian or Asian-American characters, while more than 20 percent featured no black characters.
“The complete absence of individuals from these backgrounds is a symptom of a diversity strategy that relies on tokenistic inclusion rather than integration,” the study said.
For characters aged 40 years or older, men tended to fill these roles (74.3 percent) compared to women (25.7) — evidence that the opportunities for women in the same age bracket just aren’t as available.
The report also found that LGBT characters were underrepresented, accounting for only 2 percent of the speaking roles. Worse, only seven transgender characters were counted, four of which could be found on one digital series.
“Beyond this invisibility, intersectionality is also a problem,” the report said. “The majority of LGBT characters are white males, excluding women and people of color who are part of the LGBT community.”
The report also scrutinized Hollywood’s makeup behind the camera, examining 10,000 directors, writers and show creators. It showed that 15.2 percent of directors, 28.9 percent of writers in film and TV, and 22.6 percent of creators were female.
Overall, out of more than 400 directors, 87 percent were white. In film, only 3.4 percent of the films surveyed were directed by women, and of those, only two directors were black women: Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) and Amma Asante (“Belle.”)
From these statistics, USC researchers, who released a version of this study last year, concluded that Hollywood remains a “straight, white, boy’s club.”