Today the UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies releases its second annual Hollywood Diversity Report, a study of television and film over the 2012-2013 viewing season. The study examines both what studios are producing, as well as what audiences are watching, and confirms what we already have a sense of: diversity in casting is generally improving, but slowly, and not everywhere; and viewers like and want to watch diversely cast shows.
Also tellingly, for the first time the Report includes study of the demographics of the creators and decision-makers behind television and film; and those decision-makers are overwhelmingly white and male.
In this study, representation in shows is calculated relative to their share of the U.S. population. Women and minorities remain under-represented across cable, broadcast television, and film; although there were some improvements over the results of the first study, which examined the 2011-2012 viewing season. In general, minorities fared better than women, marking gains in diversity almost across the board, while roles for women decreased in film and broadcast television, and remained largely the same — and vastly unequal — in cable TV.
We have clearly also made striking gains over this past year, though they are not included in this study. At the same time, the overwhelming whiteness of this year’s Oscars demonstrates that we still have a long way to go.
But the positive take-away we can get from all this: viewers want to see themselves, their friends, colleagues, and neighbors in the shows they watch; and they are being heard. Things in the establishment change at a glacial pace, but they are changing. Those of us in the indie world can add pressure by creating even more stories that accurately reflect diversity; and those of you who like watching these stories can add your own voices by choosing to watch them. You have the power to keep the pressure for change on. You can vote with your eyes and your dollars.