Photo: Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, one of the few LGB characters represented in Hollywood films last year.
While television is enjoying a golden age of creativity and an unprecdented range of diverse characters, Hollywood, it seems, is content to pump out the same bloated superhero sequels with the same homogenous cast of characters.
The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism took a critical look at 700 popular Hollywood films from 2007 to 2014. The resulting report, Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race, & LGBT Status, found what anyone watching over the past few years already knew: major motion pictures are overwhelmingly white, straight and male.
This is the first time the MDSC has measured the portrayals of LGBTs on screen and it found that in 2014's top films, about 0.4% of all speaking characters were coded as LGBT, with absolutely no portrayals of transgender people.
The report notes that the percentage of LGB characters in film is lower than estimates of the LGB population in the U.S. — around 3.5%. Moreover, a recent study found that 7% of millennials identified as LGBT, while another 3% refused to identify their sexual orientation all-together.
So why does Hollywood, bastion of liberal views that it loudly purports to be, refuse to be as progressive as the rest of the nation? Well, probably because Hollywood isn't making films for American consumption anymore.
Domestically, Hollywood raked in $10.4 billion last year. Internationally, 2014's top film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, earned over $1 billion just by itself. Meanwhile, I dare you to tell me one person who was in that without first looking it up.
As long as superhero movies and franchise movies and superhero franchise movies continue to make money, Hollywood will keep on shitting them out because Hollywood is one old, salty dog that's not about trying to learn any new tricks. Just look at the movies Sony's getting ready to dump on us over the next few years. It reads like a "who cares?" of sequels, threequels and prequels.
Luckily, independent cinema is thriving, sussing out the kinds of stories Hollywood's grown too big to care about.
And television is better than pretty much anything winning Oscars these days, while attracting Oscar-winning and caliber talent by the truckloads. So maybe Hollywood can keep its blockbusters with its predominately white, straight, male casts because there's an audience for it. It's just not me. Not because I don't see myself represented on the big screen — though that's part of it — but because ain't nobody got time for another Resident Evil movie. Number six is coming out in Jaunary 2017.
Check out some interesting facts from the MDSC's Inequality in 700 Popular Films report:
Across 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top films of 2014, only 19 were Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. Not one Transgender character was portrayed.
Ten characters were coded as Gay, 4 were Lesbian, and 5 were Bisexual. Only 14 movies sample wide featured an LGB depiction and none of those films were animated.
Of the LGB characters coded, nearly two‐thirds were male (63.2%) and only 36.8% were female.
LGB characters were also predominantly White (84.2%). Only 15.8% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Only 17 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a lead or co lead actor from an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic group.
Of those characters coded for race/ethnicity across 100 top films of 2014, 73.1% were White, 4.9% were Hispanic/Latino, 12.5% were Black, 5.3% were Asian, 2.9% were Middle Eastern, <1% were American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 1.2% were from “other” racial and/or ethnic groupings. This represents no change in the portrayal of apparent race/ethnicity from 2007‐2014.
Just over a quarter of characters in action and/or adventure (26.1%) and comedy films (26.5%) are from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups across the 100 top films of 2014. This represents no change from 2007 or 2010.
Only 30.2% of the 30,835 speaking characters evaluated were female across the 700 top‐grossing films from 2007 to 2014.
In 2014, no female actors over 45 years of age performed a lead or co lead role. Only three of the female actors in lead or co lead roles were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.
No female leads or co leads were Lesbian or Bisexual characters.
Les Fabian Brathwaite — it's the pictures that got small.