Movies And TV Shows With Diverse Casts Make Money After All
Audiences are more drawn towards shows and movies with diverse casts, but women and minorities remain woefully under-represented in Hollywood. That's the takeaway from the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report, which once again shows that the industry has a long way to go.
"Hollywood is not progressing at the same rate as America is diversifying," said study lead author Darnell Hunt, a professor of sociology at UCLA.
Box-office returns and Nielsen ratings show "clearly that America's increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse content created with the input of diverse talent," according to the report by UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. Movies with at least a 30 percent diverse cast did best in the international box office, and TV shows with casts between 41 and 50 percent diverse scored the highest ratings. "Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content," co-author Ana-Christina Ramon told The Hollywood Reporter.
The problem with the lack of diversity seems to come not just from the set or behind the camera, but from the boardrooms and offices. A new addition to year's study also broke down the makeup of executives that run networks and studios in 2013. Executives at TV networks and studios that year were 96 percent white and 71 percent male, but even more damning was the breakdown for movie studio execs: 94 percent white and 100 percent male.
"It's a high-risk industry. People want to surround themselves with collaborators they're comfortable with, which tends to mean people they've networked with—and nine times out of 10, they'll look similar," Hunt said. Because of this mindset of racial cronyism, the report indicts Hollywood for having "an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women."
Although diverse shows and movies seem to be doing well with the public, the productions remains largely white and male. The American population is 40 percent minority and slightly over 50 percent female, but this is hardly reflected in what we see on our screens. In the movies, only one-sixth of lead characters went to minorities, and just over a fourth went to women. On the flipside, though, the diversity of casts increased over last year's study (which surveyed films from 2011-2012).
In television, the numbers were more promising though they still had a long way to go as well. Women make up almost half of the leads on broadcast TV, even though that number was slightly down from last year's study. Casts of TV shows were also generally more diverse than movies, though the breakdown differed based on whether the shows were on cable or broadcast. Broadcast TV had less than 7 percent of leads be played by a non-white actor, whereas cable was almost three-times as diverse in casting leads.
"Film has always been a step or two behind television in terms of its willingness and ability to open up and diversify," said Hunt. Although the numbers show some progress, especially in the world of television, he remains cautious. "It's getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough. And it's still a big problem."