editorial: does diversity exist in Hollywood?

I’ve seen three news articles in the last couple of days all relating to the representation of non-white, non-female roles in major Hollywood movies.

I blogged yesterday about the splash made by the news that Sony was pushing ahead with a female superhero movie in 2017.  Today I have seen two stories on similar topics.  The first featured British actress Juliet Stevenson (Law and Order: UK) complaining about the lack of roles for women in their 50’s.  She went further and said she had spent most of her career playing not very interesting roles.  Finally, a report has been released by the University of Southern California (USC) following a study of diversity in Hollywood.

The study looked at the top grossing movies released between 2007 and 2013.  The report concluded that Latinos were the most under-represented minority – 16.3% of the US population but just 4.9% of characters.  74% of the characters in the movies were white.

The case against diversity seems compelling and I can’t argue against it.  Above and beyond the empirical and circumstantial evidence presented above I tried to think what names came to mind first in terms of the biggest stars today.  I immediately went to George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy.  Yes, Denzel Washington has become a Hollywood staple but he is a rarity.

I do think the tide is turning.  Female writers have become top sellers i.e. J. K. Rowling, the writer of mega hit Frozen (2013) was female, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence have portrayed successful strong female leads.  The rise of the female star is back on the agenda.  What concerns me more are roles for ethnic minorities.  We are going to see a couple of black characters in Star Wars Episode VII but no ethnic super hero as of yet.

I’m not entirely sure what is driving these trends.  I don’t sit in the studio execs offices.  I suppose I could fall back on the middle-aged white stereotype but I have no independent evidence.  Does anybody out there know the answer?

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