When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced nominations for Oscars earlier this year, there was an outcry because, for the second straight year, there was an absence of black nominees in any of the acting categories. The situation gave rise to the online hashtag OscarsSoWhite. However, some activists like director Spike Lee said the problem went deeper than lack of diversity in Oscar nominees; it stemmed from higher up, from the executive ranks of the studios, which are largely white and male. A recent study supports this observation.
The study was conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) and is titled Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment. It found an “epidemic of invisibility” permeated the film industry for women, minorities, and LGBT people. Researchers examined 109 films released by major studios in 2014. Some of the findings follow.
The heads of film studios are 94% white and 100% male; film studio management is 92% white and 83% male; and film studio unit heads are 96% white and 61% male. A co-author of the study, USC professor Stacy Smith, said, “It’s about greenlighting…who is giving the okay for certain stories to be told. When a very narrow slice of the population is in control of power and has the ability to greenlight a project, then we are going to see products and stories that reflect that narrow worldview.”
Additionally, the study reports 3.4% of the 109 films were directed by women and of those directors just two were black. Screenwriters, too, are overwhelmingly white males. These figures represent a small gain among film directors but a loss among screenwriters since a study done ten years ago.
Of all speaking characters, 28% were non-white and 2% were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Women had 29% of the speaking roles, and were four times more likely than men to be shown in sexy attire, three times more likely to show some nudity, and nearly four times more likely to be referred to as physically attractive.
The study states that the film industry still functions as “a straight, white boys club.” Smith concluded: “The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite. We don’t have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”