Hollywood fails to project the increasing diversity of the U.S., a new study finds. The survey by the University of Southern California's Annenberg school shows that there has been "no meaningful change" in the frequency of any racial or ethnic group in popular films between 2007 and 2013, with Hispanics still being the most underrepresented ethnic group in films.
According to the study, of 3,932 speaking characters in 100 films from last year, only 5% of them were Hispanics. That's the same level recorded in 2008, though the country's Hispanic population has surged up to 17.1% as of 2013.
Zoe Saldana who stars in "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Fast and Furious 6" actress Michelle Rodriguez are among Hispanic stars who appeared in movies in 2013. The study also finds that Hispanics were the most sexualized group in Hollywood, with 37.5% of female characters shown partially or fully naked, and 16.5% of males featured in revealing or tight clothing.
Esai Morales, a Brooklyn-born actor of Puerto Rican descent, comments on the findings, "Sadly, I'm not surprised. This has been a constant for some time now." He further tells the Daily News, "Part of the problem is conditioning. When you hear the names De Niro or Pacino, you automatically know it's an American movie. But the minute you have a Nunez or a Vasquez as the lead, people wonder if it's a foreign-language film with subtitles. That worries people. It's a mindset that's very accepted in Hollywood. It's about categories that are easily identified."
African Americans are gaining more screen time in Hollywood movies compared to Hispanics, with 14.1% of the speaking parts, the study finds. Black people make up 13.2% of the U.S. population.
2013 was actually a big year for minorities-directed films, with Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron winning an Academy Award for his work in "Gravity" and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" being named Best Picture at Oscars.
However, Professor Stacy L. Smith who authored the study notes, "The voices heralding that 2013 was a banner year for black characters in film must be thinking of a few salient examples. In reality, we saw no meaningful difference in the representation of characters from underrepresented backgrounds across the six years we studied."
In conclusion, the study states that "despite the demographic changes at work in the U.S., films still portray a homogenized picture of the world" and the findings "illustrate how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen."