Report Shows Latinx People Vastly Underrepresented in Hollywood

Latinx people in Hollywood are vastly underrepresented in front of and behind the camera, according to a new study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California (USC).

The study, released on August 26, was conducted by Professor Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in partnership with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment. The research found Latinx people are virtually nonexistent when it comes to representation in Hollywood films.

According to the findings, just 4.5 percent of the 47,268 speaking or named characters were Latinx in the 12-year period spanning 2007 and 2018. The study found that of the 1,200 top-grossing films during those years, just 3 percent featured Latinx actors in lead or co-lead roles.

In the 100 top-grossing films in 2018, 47 of them lacked any Latino characters and 70 lacked any Latina characters. Nearly all of the 100 films lacked Latinx characters with disabilities (95) and LGBT Latinx characters (98). Only 5 films out of 500 between 2014 and 2018 featured a Latinx character in the LGBTQ community.

“The Latino community has not been prioritized, and it is imperative that we shed light on the glaring reality of Latino representation in film,” Benjamin Lopez, executive director of NALIP, said in a statement.

The study found the most frequently hired Latinx actors were Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Eugenio Derbez, and Jessica Alba. It also discovered that only eight male and two female leads, co-leads, or members of an ensemble cast were 45 years of age or older at the time of the theatrical release. Both of those female leads were played by Lopez.

The numbers were no better behind the camera, according to the study. Just 4 percent of the 1,200 films examined were directed by a Latinx person. A vast majority, 71 percent, were international directors, and the remaining 29 percent were from the US. Of the 1,335 directors examined, just one was a Latina. Only 3 percent of producers were Latinx, most of them men.

“No matter which part of the film ecosystem we examined, Latinos were vastly underrepresented,” Stacy Smith, who conducted the study, said in a statement.

Smith continued: “This community represents nearly half of Angelenos, 39 percent of Californians, and 18 percent of the US population. At a time where Latinos in our country are facing intense concerns over their safety, we urgently need to see the Latino community authentically and accurately represented throughout entertainment.”

Hispanic people numbered 58.9 million in 2017 (18.1 percent), according to the US Census Bureau. The number is expected to skyrocket by 2045, when the bureau estimates one in four Americans will be Hispanic, The New York Times reported.

When Latinx people were portrayed, they were often disconnected from Latinx culture or community, depicted as criminals, or presented as disadvantaged or in economic need. The study found that 24 percent of all Latinx speaking characters and 28 percent of top-billed Latinx talent were depicted as criminals, such as gang members or drug dealers.

Latinx characters who were depicted as gainfully employed held occupations that did not require a college education (54 percent) or in law enforcement (31 percent). Just 4 percent of those characters held jobs in STEM and only nine characters had high level positions.

The study proposed several strategies to improve Latinx representation in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood. The authors recommended that Hollywood producers and casting directors make an effort to cast Latinx people in smaller roles to improve the overall presence of Latinx people working in the industry. The study also suggested building a pipeline for workers behind the camera.

“A stronger pipeline for Latino creators should result in more authentic storytelling, particularly those focused on the Latino community,” Smith wrote.

Finally, the study’s author encouraged more financial support and opportunity for Latinx content creators.

“Philanthropists must invest in short films and features by Latino writers, directors, and producers,” Smith wrote. “As we have seen in other arenas, specific funds dedicated to ensuring films by directors of a certain background or identity have made it possible for new stories and storytellers to emerge. Whether through grants or other investments, demonstrating the financial viability of content by, for, and about the Latino community is essential.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.