Ep. 40: A New Report Shows How Little Hollywood Has Improved on Diversity

August 1st 2017

ATTN: Staff

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It's telling that the hashtag #TheFirstTimeISawMe—where users commented on the impact of seeing themselves represented in pop culture—went viral the same week that a Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative report from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that Hollywood's track record with representation isn't improving. Apparently, when it comes to onscreen diversity, audiences talking—or tweeting—about their desire for representation hasn't translated to industry action.

"Every year we're hopeful that we will actually see change," Stacy L. Smith, lead author of the study and professor at USC, explained to the Associated Press. "Unfortunately that hope has not quite been realized."

Smith was more blunt in a quote to Variety: "These are embarrassing findings to a progressive industry that cares deeply about inclusion," she said. "The activism is clearly not reaching studio decision makers."

"Moonlight"—a moving depiction of a black, gay man's story—won the Oscar for best picture, "Hidden Figures"—which told the story of three black women who helped launched John Glenn into space had great commercial and critical success, and "Wonder Woman" became the highest grossing live action film ever directed by a woman. However, the fact that these (and several other recent films "Get Out" and "The Big Sick") stand out is because of their singularity.

The report "analyzed nearly 40,000 characters for gender, race, LGBTQ status, and disability in 900 films, including the top 100 movies of 2016," according to Variety. It examined the years from 2007 to 2016, with the exception of 2011 (another study looked at that year separately). The most starkly underrepresented characters were women, disabled characters, and Hispanic characters. Asian and black characters were also underrepresented.

From The Associated Press:

"Of the speaking characters surveyed: 70.8 percent were white; 13.6 percent black; 5.7 percent Asian; 3.1 percent Hispanic; and less than 1 percent American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. According to the latest U.S. Census, the nation is 61.3 percent white, 17.8 percent Hispanic, 5.7 percent Asian, 13.3 percent black, 1.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native and 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian.

"More striking still is the film by film "invisibility" breakdown, which finds that 25 of the 100 films did not feature a single black character in a speaking role; 54 films had no Hispanic characters (14 higher than in 2015); 44 had no Asian characters (a rare improvement from 2015, which tallied 49 films with zero Asians)."

Behind the scenes, the report was just as dismal. In 2016 there were only five female directors out of the top 100 films—which were made by a total of 120 directors, including co-directors.

So how does the industry correct such an imbalance? While it may lie with some of the aforementioned success stories, the bulk of the change may need to come from executives reluctant to take a risk. The cast "Got Your Attention" discusses these possible solutions and more on this week's episode.

Along with the diversity report, the cast chats about whether or not the White House shake-ups impact average voters, if Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) op-ed matters, and shrinking seat-space on airplanes.

Podcast notes:

Read more about the stories we did (and didn't) talk about this week on "Got Your Attention.

  • Former Arizona Sheriff and major Trump supporter Joe Arpaio has been convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order.
  • Tomi Lahren benefits from a key aspect of Obamacare.
  • A new report from University of Southern California says Hollywood is still dominated by white men as far as on screen representation goes. Characters who are women, Hispanic, or disabled are still underrepresented. 
  • The Daily Beast did a story about how the lead singer of Blues Traveler, John Popper, is reportedly harassing a guy who tweeted insults at him—including posting his address and pictures of his house on Facebook and more.
  • Casey Affleck’s wife, Summer Phoenix, files for divorce.
  • “The Case of the incredible Shrinking Airline Seat," a judge is ordering the Federal Aviation Administration to review the space between seats and seat size.
  • Chewing gum sales have gone down 8 percent in the last decade. This speaks to a larger shift in American consumerism. 
  • Ann Coulter went on a rant about marijuana at Politicon.
  • The Trump administration placed sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
  • More than 1,300 Cuban migrants are being held in detention centers across the U.S. after an unexpected policy change under President Obama, which led to the end of their special status, according to the Miami Herald.
  • Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake wrote an op-ed for Politico called "My Party is in Denial About Donald Trump."

What is the "Got Your Attention" podcast?

If you've ever wondered how the staff pitch and select the stories that you read or watch on ATTN:, we're giving you an inside listen. ATTN: Media is excited to announce "Got Your Attention," a podcast where ATTN: staffers compete to have their pitches accepted by our host — while also unpacking some of the week's most important headlines.

The game is simple: Three ATTN: staff members—Office Manager Liv Enriquez, Staff Writer Mike Rothschild, and Video Producer and Editor Natalie Zarowny—pitch their best stories to Senior Editor Sarah Gray. If Sarah picks their story, they get a point, and the four discuss the story.