March 23, 2019

Hollywood Is as White, Straight and Male as Ever

Hollywood Is as White, Straight and Male as Ever

Gender Letter is a weekly take on news and culture. Tell me what you think at

Psst, Hollywood. I really think you want me on your side. I’m an entertainment junkie, and always have been. My free moments are spent shamelessly bingeing movies and oh-so-many shows. As a child in the 1980s and ’90s, I would watch and rewatch everything available to me until I swear I reached the entertainment event horizon.

As a journalist, I reported on entertainment news for years. I know my stuff, and I assure you, Hollywood, I’m growing pickier by the day.

Since the veil fell on the epidemic of sexual misconduct in the industry — starting with the unraveling of Harvey Weinstein last fall and most recently with accusations of misconduct leveled at Les Moonves, the C.E.O. of CBS — I’ve been thinking ever more critically about the entertainment I choose to consume, mindfully putting my money, my time and my enthusiasm where my mouth is. And my mouth is attached to a gay woman of color.

[Sign up here to get future installments of the Gender Letter delivered to your inbox.]

But according to a new report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who is like me or looks like me in most Hollywood films, in front of or behind the camera.

Despite the rise of hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite — and celebrated films with women, people of color and queer people at their center, like “Wonder Woman,” “Black Panther” and “Call Me by Your Name” — there’s been little progress over the last decade.

Researchers found that of the top 100 films each year from 2007 to 2017 (that’s 1,100 films in total), representation of women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people and the disabled has remained overwhelmingly stagnant: Women have never accounted for more than 33 percent of speaking roles in a given year.

“Those expecting a banner year for inclusion will be disappointed,” Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the founding director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which conducted the research, told The Times earlier this week.

I know when I see parts of myself reflected on screen in fully realized characters — not one-dimensional bad guys or clichés thrown in for kicks — I almost always become a loyal fan of their creators.

My reminder to Hollywood: This film season, we’re watching … you.


Hollywood, by the Numbers


That’s the number of men who spoke on screen for every one woman who talked. Yes, of the 48,757 speaking roles in 1,100 films examined, less than 30 percent of them were women.

25 percent

Women who were partly nude in the top 100 films of 2017, compared with 9.6 percent of men. The study found that women were considerably more likely to shed clothes, dress in sexy attire or be referred to as “attractive” than men on screen.

Also, 13- to 20-year-old female characters were just as likely as 21- to 39-year-old women to be shown in sexy attire with some nudity, and more likely to be referenced as “attractive.”


The number of women who worked as directors on these 1,100 films during this decade, accounting for only 7.3 percent of the total.

Only four were women of color, including Ava DuVernay, above left, with the actor Storm Reid on the set of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

70.7 percent

The number of white characters pictured in the top 2017 films, compared with 12.1 percent black, 4.8 percent Asian and 6.2 percent Latino/a. The “other” category — which included Middle Easterners, American Indians and Alaskan natives — comprised 6.3 percent. In the United States, about 60 percent of the population is white, according to the United States Census Bureau.

[Our popular Race/Related email newsletter explores race with provocative reporting and discussion. Subscribe for free here.]


The number of transgender characters represented in the top 100 films of 2017. Additionally, 81 of these films had no gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.

2.5 percent

The number of disabled characters depicted in 2017 — compared with 18.7 percent of the United States population, according to U.S.C. Annenberg.


In the News

• Top tracks from 21st century women+. NPR published a list of the 200 greatest songs of this century by women and non-binary artists. Come for Beyoncé, stay for Big Freedia, above. [NPR]

• “Beyond Curie.” A new project spotlights 40 women scientists in a series of gorgeous portrait collages. [Quartzy]

Alice Austen. Zora Neale Hurston. Antonia Pantoja. Why they, and seven other women, should get monuments in New York City. [The New York Times]

• “Our New Fembot Overlords.” In the new season of “Internetting,” Amanda Hess, a Times culture critic, examines the fembots of the internet, real and imagined. “Are actual human women starting to look a little bit unreal?” she asks. [The New York Times]


From the Archives

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to win an Oscar. She received the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Mammy, the head slave at the fictional plantation in “Gone with the Wind” (1939).

During the ceremony, she was not seated with the other cast members, but instead at a table against the wall, because the hotel where the awards took place had a no-blacks policy. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the producer, David O. Selznick, “had to call in a special favor just to have McDaniel allowed into the building.”

The first Academy Awards took place in 1929. Since McDaniel’s win, fewer than 50 black people have accepted Oscars.

Like this article? Sign up here to get future installments of Gender Letter delivered to your inbox. Want us in your Instagram? We gotchu. Tell me what you think at

Maya Salam, our new newsletter writer, just finished “Killing Eve” and is going to rewatch “Mad Max: Fury Road” this weekend. Follow her on Twitter @Maya_Salam or write to her at

Source link

About The Author

Related posts