Diversity in television and films is not only an ethical necessity, but it's good for business, too. The Hollywood Reporter outlines a UCLA study that shows audiences want even more ethnic representation on television — and that diversity on screen is good for ratings and box office numbers.
According to Darnell Hunt, sociology professor and director of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies, though Hollywood's racial and gender diveristy is increasing, it's not moving fast enough: "Hollywood is not progressing at the same rate as America is diversifying."
The study indicates that the problem lies not within the television audience, but rather the lack of diversity in agencies, guilds, studios and networks. Ana-Christina Ramon, co-author of the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report, says, "Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content." Ramon goes on to explain that these institutions underestimate the talent of minorities, saying that it is "an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women."
In the realm of film, the study highlights that minorities were underrepresented more than 2-to-1 in lead roles and 2-to-1 as directors. Delving beyond race, it was found that women were represented 2-to-1 in lead roles and 8-to-1 as directors.
Television is steadily making progress with shows like Black-ish, Empire and How to Get away With Murder contributing to this surge. According to the study, Black households preferred cable programs with more than 50 percent diversity, pointing out several of BET's original programming including The Game and Real Husbands of Hollywood. Though this is commendable, minorities remain underrepresented both in front and behind the camera, being recognized 6-to-1 in lead roles on scripted broadcast shows. While more shortcomings regarding minorities were mentioned, it was ultimately concluded that both minorities and women were underrepresented in reality television programming.
There is still much more progress to be made, Hunt remains optimistic that more diversity will come along in due time: "Film has always been a step or two behind telvision in terms of its willingness and ability to open up and diversify, he says. "It's creating a change for people to get in who had no shot before."
(Photos from Left: BET, Michael Lavine/FOX, Kelsey McNeal/ABC)
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