Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Hollywood has a bit of a diversity problem.
For those out the loop, look no further than Sunday night’s Oscars, which featured a grand total of—wait for it—five black nominees. If the ceremony were any whiter, it’d be mistaken for a Klan rally.
Which brings us to the fine folks at UCLA, who’ve just released the first part of their seventh annual 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report. And their findings—unveiling an all too familiar tale of two Hollywoods—are about as alabaster as you imagined.
Let’s dig in.
Spearheaded by the esteemed Dr. Darnell Hunt, UCLA’s Dean of Social Sciences, and Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, UCLA’s director of research and civic engagement, the research considers the top 200 theatrical film releases in 2018 and 2019 in order to properly assess how diversity—with regard to both race and gender—is represented both behind and in front of the camera.
In doing so, the research team at UCLA found that despite the fact that minorities constitute about 40 percent of the U.S. population, we’re woefully underrepresented in Hollywood’s five key employment sectors compared to our unseasoned counterparts: leading roles (27.6 percent), directors (14.4 percent), screenwriters (13.9 percent), total actors (32.7 percent) and studio heads (a paltry 9 percent).
Their findings also reveal that films helmed by a female director have yet to win a single Academy Award for the fourth year straight, and that despite long-standing myths that insist otherwise, audiences prefer diverse content. And how did they come to this conclusion? Numbers never lie:
In 2018, films with casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts, while films with casts that were from 41 percent to 50 percent minority enjoyed this distinction in 2019. By contrast, films with the least diverse casts—in both years—were the poorest performers.
Of course, it’s a bit difficult to match the international box office success of the Brad Pitts and Margot Robbies of the world when our films aren’t even released outside of the U.S.
Consistent with findings from previous reports, films with Black leads and majority-minority casts were released in the fewest international markets, on average, in both 2018 and 2019.
This, despite the fact that Hollywood’s highest-paid actor is—wait for it—Dwayne Johnson’s black ass, who collected a cool $89.4 million between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.
“There’s old myths that existed before, and they were very entrenched,” Michael Tran, who contributed to the study, told the Daily Bruin. “For instance, white households didn’t want to see people of color on screen. We’ve shown that’s not necessarily the case. People of color generally overrepresent ticket buyers, (so) they’re buying a lot more tickets than their share of the population.”
In all, the 50-page report is an eye-opening exploration into how deeply divided the film industry that many of us have come to know and love truly is. And Ramón notes that even though Black Hollywood is experiencing its own renaissance, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous and Middle Eastern North African audiences are hungry for not only representation on screen, but opportunities to create and produce their own stories.
“The people who are shaping the narrative and...creating the story, they’re not as diverse,” Ramón said. “That’s why, on the face of it, there’s progress, but it’s still not a complete sign of things changing.”
She also asserts that in order to create wholesale changes in Hollywood, it’s going to require both accountability and commitment to increase diversity at every level of production—a sentiment shared by her co-author, Hunt.
“As of 2019, both women and minorities are within striking distance of proportionate representation when it comes to lead roles and total cast,” he said. “But behind the scenes, it’s a very different story. That begs the question: Are we actually seeing systematic change, or is Hollywood just appealing to diverse audiences through casting, but without fundamentally altering the way studios do business behind the camera?”
You can read the report in full here.