This week Neil Calloway looks at a report about representation on-screen.
In between re-watching Deadpool, I’m sure you’ve all been spending your time reading Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment. If not, I’m here to help.
Complied by the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California. In short, if you’re not a straight white male, it’s not good reading.
Looking at representation in speaking roles across 109 films and 305 TV shows released between 2014 and 2015, it makes for eye-opening reading.
Two thirds of the 11,306 characters that appeared in the sample were men, with just a third women. Leaving out TV and streamed shows, almost three-quarters of speaking parts in film were men. If you’re a female and over forty, then just only just over 20% of speaking characters in films were representative of you. Only 7.6% of men were shown in “sexy attire”, whereas 34.3% of females on-screen were scantily clad. You only have to watch a film like The Revenant – which doesn’t have a single female character speaking English in it, to realise how odd the lack of women is. Can you imagine a similar film neglecting men in such a way?
Behind the camera, it gets even more depressing for women; 96.6% of film directors are men, with only 3.4% of them women. Women get a slightly fairer crack of the whip when it comes to writing films, with a whopping 10.8% of films written by women. Compared to the number of female directors, that’s an impressive figure.
Not only has a woman never won the Best Cinematography Oscar, no woman has ever been nominated for the award; a notable absence this year is Maryse Alberti, neglected despite her superlative work in Creed (watch Creed’s first professional fight, which is shot in a single take where the camera doesn’t leave the ring, and tell me she didn’t deserve at least a nomination). It’s worth noting that the Cinematography Oscar isn’t purely the domain of the white male too; Emmanuel Lubezki, a Jewish Mexican (hardly a demographic over-represented in Hollywood) has won for the past two years.
Sticking with awards and women, there was a minor fuss when host Stephen Fry joked that Best Costume Design winner Jenny Beavan (for Mad Max: Fury Road) looked like a bag lady. There is no conceivable way that a man in a similar position would be on the receiving end of a joke like that. There does seem to be an imbalance at the top of the film industry when it comes to representation of women on-screen and women behind the camera.
Of the 11,194 characters who had an identifiable sexuality, only 224 were Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. Transgender characters fare even worse; only seven named characters identified as Transgender, and four of those were on the same show. Only one did not appear on a series that was not on Amazon, Hulu or Netflix.
When it comes to race – where the diversity debate has been focussed this awards season – the picture is pretty bleak again. Of the 109 films analysed, 20 had no black characters and 55 had no Asian characters. If you’re a Black, Asian or Latino women over the age of 40 made up only 203 of the 11,306 speaking roles analysed. Behind the camera, only two out of the 407 directors were black women – Amma Asante for Belle and Ava DuVernay for Selma.
With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that so few Black, Asian or Latinos are nominated for awards; they simply aren’t on-screen or behind the camera enough for them to get nominated. By not having these groups make films we’re missing out on important stories. People complain that politics is the preserve of rich old white men, but the US currently has a Black president, and it may have a female one by the end of the year. Hollywood is losing out on talent, and missing out important audiences if it doesn’t do something about this lack of representation soon.
The full report can be found here.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.