Diversity Sells! Or Does It?
As most of us know, Viola Davis made history as being the first black actress to receive an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series at the 67th Emmy Awards. To be specific, her role as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder earned her the win, and she accepted it with an emotional and powerful speech, stating that “The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity. You can’t win Emmy’s for roles that aren’t there.”
So the question is, where are the roles? Are women of color fairly represented in the entertainment industry? I decided to do some research to really see what the numbers were, and how minorities stack up in Hollywood. As a starting point, it’s important to note that minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. With such a high number of minorities, one would think that perhaps the ratio would be the same in Hollywood, right? Not true.
I did some slight research, and according to the Hollywood Diversity Report, done by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies (UCLA), evidence suggests that because audiences have become increasingly more diverse, they expect (and will watch) more diverse shows. In fact, Hispanics bought 25 percent of movie tickets in 2013. However, minorities made up 16.7 percent of all lead actors of theatrical films that same year, and only 25.3 percent of all lead actors were female.
While the theatrical film statistics for the front of the camera are dismal, stats for behind the screen and for television shows are even worse. Women directed only 6.3 percent of films in 2013. 11.8 percent of all directors were minorities. And UCLA’s study claims that “minority actors claimed 6.5 percent of the lead roles in broadcast scripted programming during the 2012-13 season,” which lead to under-representation by a factor of almost 6 to 1. Despite these numbers, cable scripted shows have a higher number of minority leads at 19.3 percent (shows such as Single Ladies and Love Thy Neighbor) during the 2012-13 season. In reality TV this under-representation is a little less pronounced (with shows like America’s Next Top Model and Braxton Family Values).
With these numbers, although the film industry seems to remain mostly White and male, the television industry is seeing lots of change, with TV show hits such as How To Get Away With Murder, Black-ish, Being Mary Jane, and Empire. But this comes with less risk of failure. Films in general can cost hundreds of millions of dollars (for instance, The Avengers: Age of Ultron had a budget of $279.9 billion), which results in a higher risk for studios. On the other hand, many more TV shows are produced each year, with typically smaller budgets needed and much less risk. All in all, although minorities and females are slowly but surely gaining traction on the screen, it’s our jobs as the audience to show as much support as possible to show that they are not only important but also wanted. Let’s see more black women on television shown in a positive light.
Article By: Chynnah Tomlin