Gender and race diversity, and Hollywood representation

An interesting article that crossed my radar about women’s representation in Hollywood films … this loops into our discussions last week about patterns of exclusion and the exceptions to them.

Anecdotally, many believe that Hollywood is sexist. For example, can you name five female-led action movies made in the past decade off the top of your head? How about a movie this year that was directed by a woman? A feature-length film about D-list comic-book characters, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” was released before a movie about an A-list female character, “Wonder Woman,” went into production. Think about that.

But anecdotes can be countered with other anecdotes. What about “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent” franchises, which feature female leads? What about Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson, who are huge audience draws? What about “Frozen”? Let it go already, one might respond.

So, how would you build an ironclad case that women are disregarded on-screen and behind the camera? You’d have to look at the most popular movies, rigorously code each one, and inventory scores of writers and directors, hundreds of producers and thousands of characters — all the way from James Bond down to Barista No. 4.

This popular article draws on academic research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, and they’ve also released data which addresses race and ethnicity in popular films (link to their most recent paper; check out the key findings for an executive summary or refer to the tables). Here’s a link to their full body of research.

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