At a recent luncheon celebrating the 2014 Oscar nominees, a group of A-list stars, directors, sound mixers and more gathered round a life-size model of the historic golden trophy for a class photo.
The resulting image (above), noticeably overrun by white males, underlines the Hollywood entertainment industry’s ongoing diversity problem. Validating this issue with a wealth of data and statistics is a new study titled, 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect.
The researchers at the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA analyzed more than 1,200 TV shows and films to test one of the most prevalent arguments against diversity in Hollywood: mainly, that an excess of racial and gender variety threatens a project’s profitability or ratings.
Their findings revealed that diversity actually attracts larger audience and earns more revenue:
- Broadcast TV comedies and dramas with 41 percent to 50 percent nonwhite casting, like Grey’s Anatomy and Community, had the highest household ratings in the 2011-2012 season
- Eureka, A.N.T. Farm and the 18 other cable TV comedies and dramas with 31 percent to 40 percent nonwhite casting–a percentage that reflects the racial diversity of the U.S. population–had the highest household ratings; the 56 shows with 10 percent nonwhite diversity or less received the lowest in the 2011-2012 season
- Films with 21 percent to 30 percent nonwhite diversity, such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Green Hornet, posted $160.1 million, earning the highest revenue at the box office in 2011
Taking note of the the diversity problems on both sides of the camera, the study also called attention to prominent talent agencies and their underrepresentation of talent of color, as well as the historic absence of Oscars and Emmys awarded to projects created by, directing or starring individuals of color or women.
“The report paints a picture of an industry that is woefully out of touch with an emerging America, an America that’s becoming more diverse by the day,” said lead author Darnell Hunt, the center’s director.
“Hollywood does pretty well financially right now, but it could do a lot better if it were better reflecting the diversity of America.”
The first in a series of studies, this report stems from the Bunche Center’s larger Hollywood Advancement Project, which aims to: generate comprehensive research analyses of the inclusion of diverse groups in film and television; to identify and disseminate best practices for increasing the pipeline of underrepresented groups into the Hollywood entertainment industry; and to consider the broad implications of diverse industry access and media images for society as a whole.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Hunt told NPR.
“The industry likes to present itself as this bastion of liberal thought. But when it comes to diversity, it’s one of the worst industries in the country. The idea that [the underrepresentation of minorities and women] is all about economics has been taken off the table.”