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Study: Latina Women Most Likely to Be Naked On Screen

Women and Hollywood By Inkoo Kang | Women and Hollywood August 6, 2014 at 3:30PM

Also, animators -- i.e., the people who can literally give their characters any color skin they want -- overwhelmingly tend to go with white.
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Oscar nominee Salma Hayek
Oscar nominee Salma Hayek

A new study spearheaded by Dr. Stacy L. Smith at USC's Annenberg School confirms what we already know: Hollywood sucks at portraying racial diversity. 

But here's a surprise: It doesn't suck as much as you think -- as long as we're counting all speaking parts, and not just the protagonists. 

Smith and her colleagues Marc Choueiti and Dr. Katherine Pieper surveyed the 100 top-performing films of the past seven years (2007-2013) and found that the numbers of black and Asian characters are more or less commensurate with 2010 U.S. census data. 

Hispanic characters, on the other hand, are severely underrepresented and hypersexualized (both men and women) in film, even though Latinos make up the country's largest minority population. 

More frustratingly, the diversification of the American film industry has stalled in the wake of its globalization. Black women directors have made very little inroads into mainstream filmmaking. And overall, the worlds depicted in the movies just don't reflect today's changing demographics (and they never did).

But you already knew that. 

Here are some of the most interesting findings from Smith's study: 

--People of color are significantly underrepresented in film -- but not evenly. White characters made up three-quarters (74.1%) of all speaking characters in the past seven years, but that overrepresentation obscures the fact that the ranks of black and Asian characters on film (14.1% and 4.4%, respectively) reflect real-life demographics (12.6% and 4.8% per the 2010 US Census). 


--Hispanics are dramatically underrepresented and hypersexualized. In contrast to the representative numbers on black and Asian characters, only 4.9% of speaking characters in the years surveyed were Hispanic. Compare that to the 16.3% of the US population that is Hispanic -- and the fact that Latino moviegoers buy 25% of all theater tickets -- and the numbers are appalling. 

Even worse, Hispanic women on screen are the most likely (37%) to be partially or fully naked among all women. Black and Asian women were the least likely to be sexualized (23.5% and 18.2%). White women stood at 31.9%. Interestingly, Hispanic men were also the most likely to be sexualized among all the male racial groups. 


--Animators tend to create whiter movies compared to filmmakers as a whole. A quarter (25.9%) of all speaking-part roles were characters of color, but in animation the number of all characters of color stood at less than 15%. That's pretty depressing, especially given the fact that nearly half of all children under the age of 5 in the US today are not white. 


--No progress on diversity on or behind the scenes has occurred between 2007 and 2013.


--Black female directors have made little inroads into the studio system. While the numbers of black male directors has held steady since 2007 (around 6.5%), only 2 black female directors were represented among the 23 black directors who made the 600 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2012. The study also disproved that 2013 was the Year of Black Cinema, since it was only the prominence, rather than the ranks, of black directors that changed last year. (Female directors of color of other races were not mentioned by the study.) 

Hopefully this year's Amma Asante's Belle and Ava DuVernay's Selma will prove to be a turning point.

[via USC's Annenberg School]

This article is related to: Diversity