Hunt says Black Panther, for example, “smashed all of the Hollywood myths that you can’t have a Black lead, that you can’t have a predominantly Black cast and [have] the film do well. It’s an example of what can be done if the industry is true to the nature of the market. But it’s too early to tell if Black Panther will change business practices or if it’s simply an outlier. We argue it demonstrates what’s possible beyond standard Hollywood practices.”
UCLA’s diversity report is subtitled, “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefers diverse film and television content. The study reports that people of color bought most of the movie tickets for five of the top 10 films in 2016, and television shows with diverse casts did well in both ratings and social media.
Hunt’s team crunched the numbers for Hollywood’s top 200 theatrical releases in 2016 and 1,251 broadcast, cable and digital platform television shows from the 2015-2016 season to document the degree to which women and people of color are present in front of and behind the camera. What they found was a “mixed bag” that over time shows a pattern: “Two steps ahead, one step back”, Hunt offers. “But at the end of five years, we see there’s not much progress.”
The report states that people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, yet they remain underrepresented on every front on all platforms, including lead roles, writers, directors and showrunners. It finds the same for the talent agents who serve as important industry gatekeepers. The report also demonstrates that despite making up more than half the population, women remain underrepresented. They gained some jobs in film and TV, but as film directors, they were outnumbered seven to one.
Hunt says there are a few bright spots in television: Broadcast TV and children’s series are increasingly diverse and do well in the ratings. “Most babies born in America today are not White,” Hunt notes, “so if you look at children’s programming, it’s unmistakable that you must have diversity, otherwise the show fails.”
This is the fifth in a series of annual reports to examine relationships between diversity and the bottom line in the Hollywood entertainment industry.
Key takeaways from this year’s report are as follows:
Since the previous report, people of color have posted gains relative to their White counterparts in eight of the key industry employment arenas examined – film directors, film writers, broadcast scripted leads, cable scripted leads, broadcast reality and other leads, cable reality and other leads, digital scripted leads, and digital scripted show creators. Minorities lost ground in only one of the 11 arenas – broadcast scripted show creators) and merely held their ground in the other two – film leads and cable scripted show creators. Despite quite a bit of progress for the group since the previous report, they remained underrepresented on every front
Relative to their male counterparts, women posted gains in all the key employment arenas since the previous report, with the exception of four – film directors, broadcast scripted show leads, cable scripted show creators, and broadcast scripted show creators. They fell further behind in the former three arenas and merely held their ground in the latter. Slightly more than half of the population, women remained underrepresented on every front in 2015-16:
In 2016, minority-directed films and those with minority leads gained ground at the Oscars relative to those led by White directors or that featured White leads. By contrast, films with women leads lost ground at the Oscars in 2016, while those directed by women failed for a second year in a row to win a single Oscar. At the Emmys, broadcast scripted shows created by people of color gained no ground relative to those pitched by White show creators, while shows created by women succeeded in closing the huge gender gap a bit. Meanwhile, not one of the cable scripted shows created by minorities won an Emmy for the 2015-16 television season (matching the previous four seasons). Though the gender gap remained large, cable shows created by women gained a little ground relative to those created by men.
Since the previous report, the three dominant talent agencies have increased their combined shares of the film directors, lm leads, film writers, cable scripted show creators, and broadcast scripted leads credited for the theatrical films and television shows examined in 2015-16. The remaining talent agencies collectively posted significant gains among digital scripted leads and made smaller inroads among broadcast scripted show creators. People of color posted significant gains among the broadcast scripted leads represented by both the dominant and remaining agencies, and more modest gains among credited lm directors and digital scripted show creators. Nonetheless, minorities remained severely underrepresented on the rosters of these powerful industry gatekeepers.
5. The Bottom Line.
Consistent with the findings of earlier reports in this series, new evidence from 2015-16 suggests that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film and television content.