Lack of diveristy in film, television creates issues

For as long as the common person has had access to television, shows and movies have entertained audiences across the world. Throughout time, visual media in the form of television has grown to evolve, with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu coming to the forefront as the way consumers view shows and movies.

While the amount of content viewers can watch is growing, so are concerns regarding diversity. We believe that it is the duty of writers and producers to accurately portray the diversity of society in shows and movies.

When thinking about diversity in media, the most common thought specifically regards racial diversity. In 2016 when the Oscar nominees were announced it came out that all 20 actors in the lead and supporting role categories were white for what was then the second year in a row, which then sparked the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Researchers with the University of Southern California (USC) conducted a study with 900 of the most popular films from 2007 to 2016. In this study, they found that 70.8 percent of characters in these films were white, 13.6 percent black, 3.1 percent Hispanic, 5.7 percent Asian, and 7 percent other.

Twenty-five of the 900 films had no African American speaking characters, 54 had no Latino speaking characters and 44 had no Asian speaking characters.

The results of this were staggering especially when considering that in 2016, 49 percent of moviegoers were from these underrepresented groups.

While racial diversity is most commonly thought of when considering diverse media representation, gender diversity also remains an issue.

According to the USC researchers, only 31.4 percent of characters in the same 900 films previously mentioned were females, and out of the top 100 films of 2016, only 34 of the leading and co-leading roles were portrayed by females.

Statistically, females make up approximately 50 percent of the population which means that they should make up 50 percent of characters portrayed in movies, at least.

Additionally, out of 1,438 content creators for films, there were five female directors, 38 female writers, 213 female producers, and two female composers. This creates a total of 258 women and 1,180 men in charge of creating content for films, which boils down to ratio of approximately 4.5 men for every 1 woman.

The lack of representation of LGBTQ characters in television shows and movies also is an issue because approximately 14.7 million adult Americans identify as LGBTQ.

According to Gallup. GLAAD – a media monitoring group founded by LGBTQ people – states that the diversity of regular characters on primetime scripted broadcasting is at an all time high at 8.8 percent of these characters being in the LGBTQ community, which equals 75 characters. While this statistic is at an all time high, it is still strides away from equal representation of sexualities.

Once again referencing the USC study, of the top 100 films in 2016, 76 percent had absolutely no LGBTQ characters. Of the 24 percent of films that did have one or more LGBTQ character, 79.1 percent of the characters were white.

One of the most underrepresented groups in film is people that have a disability. In the same USC study, only 2.7 percent of all speaking characters were shown to have a disability.

The breakdown of this 2.7 percent includes 64.5 percent with a physical disability, 31.5 percent with a mental disability and 21.8 percent were communicative.

The lack of representation of people with disabilities just perpetuates the idea that people with disabilities are somewhat of a rarity in society and our culture.

When television shows and movies portray people with disabilities either inaccurately or as uncommon, then it continues to spread negative ideology about those with disabilities.

Without proper representation, people may have misconceptions of those with disabilities which can overall just end up being harmful to that community.

According to Psychology Today, having diversity is important because it gives children someone to look up to. When children grow up having someone portrayed on screen that looks/acts like them that they can idolize, they are more likely to grow up with more confidence compared to those that are a part of underrepresented demographic groups.

Representation of everyone in the media is important because it gives a more accurate picture of what our society looks like. People of many different backgrounds and life experiences exist and deserve to be portrayed more accurately and extensively in film and television.

It should not be considered “wild” or “out there” to create characters from underrepresented groups, because everyone deserves to see themselves represented in some way on screen, and this should be heavily taken into consideration when writers and those who cast for movies make their final decisions.

Of course the ideal solution would be make every single movie perfectly accurate and diverse, but as that is unlikely anytime soon, an easy first step would for filmmakers to even consider those that are not as represented.

Overall, an increase in representation in both television shows and movies need to increase in order to create a more accurate picture of the diverse society that we live in. By choosing not to represent a large part of our people, filmmakers are functionally erasing these minorities which only brings the quality and accuracy of these movies down.