Time has passed and #MeToo dominates the conversation in Hollywood, and there does not seem to be a prize-giving or a red-carpet interview these days without filmmakers and actors being peppered with questions about pay equity and diversity. Everyone says the same thing: they want change. Yet, rhetoric does not seem to make any empirical difference when it comes to filmmaking.
An in-depth look at the 1,100 most priced films from 2007 to 2017 shows that women, minorities and members of LGBT and disability groups rarely appear on the big screen. More worryingly, the USC's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism's study over the last decade has shown that little has changed in terms of representation over the last decade, even though inclusion has become more and more debated. In fact, men are twice as likely to have a voice in a movie as women, and the number of women's roles in movies has actually slipped from 2008 and 2009.
"Unfortunately, it's largely the status quo," Dr. Stacy L. Smith, co-author of the report. "There is essentially no movement on the part of the multinational companies that run studios when it comes to putting practices on the screen."
30.6% of the 48,757 characters in the surveyed films accounted for female on-screen speakers, while 29.3% of these characters were from underrepresented ethnic / ethnic groups, 2.5% had disabilities, and less than 1% were members the LGBT community. And many of these groups have failed to even register in major Hollywood movies.
Last year, 43 films lacked black or African-American female characters, 65 lacked Asian or Asian-American female characters, and 64 did not even have a Latina character. 78 films did not have a single female figure with a disability and 94 had no female lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender personality. It was the transgender community that was the most excluded. Over 400 films from 2014 to 2017, there was only one trans character.
The lack of display on the screen can be partly due to a failure of the variety behind the camera. Only 4.3% of the 1,223 directors behind the top earner films were female, 5.2% were black or African-American, and 3.1% were Asian or Asian-American.
This summer, there have been a few big studio films like "The Spy Who Dumped Me" and "Crazy Rich Asians" anchored by female characters, but these films remain the exception to the rule. In 2017, only 33 of the top 100 box office scores had a female star or co-starring role. Of the films in which women played major roles, only four were from under-represented ethnic and ethnic groups. And even if women assume the role, their roles often require that they become sexualized. Female characters were more than twice as likely as male characters to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, sometimes nude, or whose appearance was discussed in the context of the film.
USC, the Center for Women in Film and Television, and other academic institutions have done much research on screen and behind-the-scenes diversity in recent years. Most of the time, the results were disappointing, showing an industry whose progressive policies did not influence its hiring decisions. Smith thinks that could change. The sexual harassment that has developed over the past year has undermined the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman, and other big stars accused of misconduct. It has also fueled the demand for more diversity in boardrooms and executive suites at entertainment companies and has led to popularizing ideas such as inclusion drivers that allow filmmaking talents to demand more variety in casting their films and shows. That could be crucial, says Smith, who helped develop the concept of the inclusion driver.
"I'm confident that moving forward while Time's Up and other moves will be the last year we see these types of numbers," Smith said, adding, "The people need to wake up and think more inclusive. "