Hollywood is suffering an “epidemic of invisibility” among ethnic minorities, women and LGBT people, a new study has revealed, just days ahead of the Academy Awards.
From the boardrooms of film and television studios to the actors in front of the camera, the industry is overwhelmingly white, male and heterosexual, the report by the University of Southern California found.
“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” study author Stacey Smith from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said.
The study coincides with a social media campaign under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite threatening to overshadow the Academy Awards on Sunday, the culmination of Hollywood’s annual awards season.
No ethnic minority actor or actress has been nominated in any of the top categories for the second year running, sparking an outcry against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“Overall, the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed,” the report said.
The research looked at Hollywood output aired from September 2014 to August 2015.
Of 11,300 speaking characters in 414 film and TV series studied, one third were female while just 28 per cent were ethnic minorities — far short of the proportion in society at large, usually given at somewhere approaching 40 per cent.
Just two per cent were LGBT-identified, while 74 per cent of characters aged over 40 were men.
About half of the 305 shows and 109 movies did not feature a single Asian or Asian-American character, while a fifth had no black characters.
Behind the camera, just 15 per cent of directors, 29 per cent of writers and 23 per cent of series creators were female.
“The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite, as our findings show that an epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling,” the report said.
The study reflected the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report, produced by the University of California, Los Angeles, which found ethnic minorities were under-represented on every front, from leading acting roles and directing to writing and reality television.
Film studio heads were 94 per cent white and 100 per cent male, while senior managers were 92 per cent white and 83 per cent male. The pattern was repeated in television.
The academy’s board — smarting from claims of institutional racism — has announced that by 2020, it will double the number of women and people from minority backgrounds among its voting members, which it currently puts at 24 per cent and seven per cent respectively.