Depressing New Study Confirms Hollywood Is So, So, So, So, So White (and Male, and Straight)

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Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Photo: Kerry Brown/Twentieth Century Fox

Get ready for some more depressing statistics about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. A new USC study has found an "epidemic of invisibility" for women and people of color in the entertainment industry, both onscreen and behind the scenes. The statistics are staggering: In an analysis of the 11,000 speaking parts that appeared in 2014 studio films and live-action scripted TV shows from the 2014–15 season, only one-third were female, and only 28 percent were nonwhite. When female characters did appear, they were more than three times as likely as men to be sexualized. LGBT representation was even worse, with that community making up only 2 percent of all speaking parts. Of those, only seven characters were trans — a minuscule .06 percent, one-fifth as much as real-world estimates.

And these characters are  largely being conceived, written, and directed by white men. As the study puts it, "The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club." Women made up only 3 percent of film directors, and 10 percent of film writers. Film directors as a whole were 87 percent white. Despite the popular notion that things are better in TV, the numbers there are hardly reassuring. Women made up less than a third of all TV writers, and less than a quarter of all show creators. When it came to TV directors, the study only analyzed premieres and pilots, but the numbers are disheartening: On broadcast shows, a whopping 90 percent of such directors were white. (Cable and streaming came in at 83 and 89 percent, respectively.) Unsurprisingly, an analysis of Hollywood's corporate structures found that these white men were mostly hired by other men. On the executive level, roughly 80 percent of the boards of directors, executive management teams, and C-suite execs were male.

For the first time, USC also handed out an "inclusivity index" report card for the corporate behemoths that make up the entertainment industry. Each film studio received a failing grade, but television did see some bright spots, as the CW, Viacom (and not just because of BET), Disney, Amazon, and Hulu each received a "fully inclusive" rating for their hiring practices or onscreen portrayals.

So, how do we make things better? There isn't one solution. For a start, the industry can start by making concrete commitments to diversity, and recognizing and calling out narrow methods of representation. "On the whole," the study concludes, "inclusivity requires creating an ecosystem in which different perspectives hold value and stories represent the world in which we live."