‘Hollywood So White,’ New Study Finds: Concludes ‘Whitewashed’ Hollywood Is A ‘Crisis’

Hollywood is suffering “an inclusion crisis,” according to a new study by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. One of the most far-reaching and exhaustive studies of its kind ever conducted, the report, set to officially release tomorrow, paints a grim picture of diversity and representation in the entertainment industry.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the study gives every movie studio and most TV producers a failing grade on their “inclusivity index.” One of the study’s authors, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, put it in simple terms.

“The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite. We don’t have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.

“When we start to step back to see this larger ecology, I think we see a picture of exclusion. And it doesn’t match the norms of the population of the United States.”

According to The Blaze, the study examined 109 films released by major studios in 2014, and 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series across 31 networks which first aired between September, 2014, and August, 2015, analyzing more than 11,000 speaking characters by racial, ethnic, gender, and LGBTQ status. The study also examined some 10,000 directors, writers, and show creators, and the gender identity of over 1,500 executives.

The results were damning.

In total, only one in three speaking characters were women, and slightly less — closer to one in four — were minorities. Worse, almost three out of four characters over the age of 40 were men.

Worst of all, of 11,306 characters, only 2 percent — a little over 200 — were LGBTQ-identified, and only seven were transgender (and four were from the same series.) That’s not seven percent, that’s seven as in you can count it on your hands. For the record, that’s 0.06 percent of all characters surveyed, a number so small, scientific studies would essentially discount it.

Laverne Cox, also known as "one of the two transgender people anyone recognizes."
Laverne Cox, also known as "one of the two transgender people anyone recognizes." [Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards]

It still manages to get even worse, though. Off the screen, 87 percent of directors are white — broadcast TV directors topping the list at 90.4 percent. Which might just explain a few things. And about 15 percent of directors, 29 percent of writers, and 23 percent of series creators are women. As for the films specifically? Only 3.4 percent were directed by women — a demographic which makes up more than half of the population — and only two directors were women of color: Ava DuVernay (director of Selma,) and Amma Asante (director of Belle.)

Amma Asante and Eva Duvernay, the only two women of color directors the study found.
Amma Asante and Eva Duvernay, the only two women of color directors the study found. [Photos by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images and Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images respectively]

The study follows a request made in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has cited previous USC studies when claiming that women have been “systematically excluded” from directing in Hollywood. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began investigating Hollywood for gender discrimination last year, and this study adds a lot of weight to those claims. The study has actually been published for 10 years in a row now, in various forms, but the “inclusivity index” is new — a way of assigning a simple, absolute number value to a studio’s overall diversity, and rates each company by their percentage of female, minority, and LGBT characters; and of female writers and directors.

None of the big six studios rated better than 20 percent.


Time Warner scored zero. Which doesn’t even seem possible in the modern world.

The report concludes that the entertainment industry “still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club.”

There is a silver lining; when their TV and digital series were taken into consideration, Disney, the CW, Amazon, and Hulu all scored 65 percent and above, indicating that the internet is once again the vehicle of change in the entertainment industry; it still falls far short of equality and adequate representation, though — most particularly for LGBTQ people, who perhaps need that representation the most.

“When we turn to see where the problem is better or worse, the apex to this whole endeavor is: Everyone in film is failing, all of the companies investigated. They’re impervious to change. But there are pockets of promise in television. There is a focus that change is possible. The very companies that are inclusive — Disney, CW, Hulu, Amazon to some degree — those companies, if they’re producing and distributing motion pictures, can do this. We now have evidence that they can, and they can thrive.”

If nothing else, this study highlights the incredible lack of diversity and representation in Hollywood, and it’s hard to believe that everyone in that industry is deliberately conspiring to shut out women, minorities, and marginalized people. Perhaps we won’t see sweeping changes right away, but perhaps some people will be made more aware of this issue, and take positive steps toward addressing it.

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]