You Can Act, Just Don’t Talk

You Can Act, Just Don’t Talk

A study finds that Blacks are more likely to have Hollywood speaking roles in films directed by African-Americans.

Published May 20, 2011

A study released today determined that African-Americans are significantly more likely to have speaking roles in Hollywood movies directed by African-Americans than in movies not directed by African-Americans.


The study, Black Characters in Popular Film: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content Held in the Hand of the Black Director?, examined the top 100 grossing films from 2007 to 2008. The head researchers, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Marc Choueiti of the University of Southern California-Annenberg, have worked with over 300 students since the study’s initiation in 2006.


Out of the 100 top films, six were headed by five African-American directors. The remaining 94 films were directed by non-African-American Directors.


In those 94 films, less than 11 percent of characters were Black with speaking roles. In the Hollywood movies headed by African-American directors however, nearly 63 percent of the characters were Black with speaking roles.


"It could be that a person in a position of power is advocating on behalf of their group," Smith says. "But the flip side to this is that the people responsible for green-lighting the picture may be associating Black directors and female directors with 'Black' storylines or 'female' storylines."


Some African-American directors, such as Tyler Perry, intend for his movies to cater to a majority-minority audience, but the casting of a nearly all-Black cast in a “Madea-style” movie could be the reason Blacks are not in more top films.


Additionally, the study said, "Repeated viewings of these types of portrayals may reinforce male and females beliefs that Black girls/women are to be valued for how they look rather than who they are."

(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Written by Danielle Wright


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