Professional entertainment watchers lauded 2013’s breakthrough films with a black storyline as a sign of racial barriers being further eroded in Hollywood. However, a study by a leading monitor of diversity in entertainment suggests that, whatever progress appears to be happening right now, black women still have farther to travel toward parity than black men in cinema.
While “Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films,” an analysis of major releases between 2007 and 2012, counted 33 black directors among 565 directors of the top 500 money-making movies, just a fraction of those 33 were women.
The study of those white-male-director-dominated films found that all women, and men of color, had fewer roles with speaking parts and, for females, more roles shaped by sexual stereotypes.
Parsed further, the findings showed that:
Some of the directors worked on more than one film included in the study, which meant that even though 33 films had black directors, there were actually 22 black directors in total.
When films had a black director, 52.6 percent of speaking characters were black. When directors were not black, 9.9 percent of speaking characters were black.
In 40 percent of the 500 films, the number of black characters with speaking rolls hovered at 5 percent.
In 2012 alone, 10.8 percent of speaking roles went to blacks, 5 percent to Asians, and 4.2 percent to Hispanics.
Of women with speaking parts, 34.8 percent were Asian, 34.6 percent were black, 33.9 percent were Hispanic, 28.8 percent were white, and 16.1 percent were of some other ethnicity.
Of all female characters, Latinas were the most likely to be robed in sexually revealing clothes or be partially nude. Among Hispanic female characters, 41.1 percent were provocatively attired and 39.3 percent were partially naked. That compared to 31.8 percent and 30.5 percent, respectively, for black women; 32.8 percent and 32.3 percent for white women; and 15.7 of each category for Asian women.