Remember that shockingly dramatic Oscars night last February when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced “La La Land” best picture—only to have the card actually say “Moonlight.” Almost everyone cheered as if Hollywood had turned the corner on showcasing diversity, behind and in front of the camera. Except longing is not reality.
“La La Land” was the favorite to win—white straight romantic dancing couple versus the black gay guy coming out over a span of difficult years—why wouldn’t the world expect the white guys to win?
But that’s not what happened that night. In fact, as New York Times critic A.O. Scott put it the next day, the night really was a heartfelt embrace of diversity.
“But in its own way, last night’s spectacle — so relatively smooth, until all of a sudden it was anything but — represents a Hollywood watershed or, at least, like the original “Bonnie and Clyde,” the arrival of a new generation. The envelope mix-up was painful, but it brought to the stage two directors in their 30s with five features between them and reminded the audience that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins are not enemies,” Scott wrote. “The grace with which the “La La Land” producers (Jordan Horowitz, in particular) handled the handoff — and the poise with which Mr. Jenkins and his producer, Adele Romanski, received the belated honor for “Moonlight” — should quell the facile polarization that followed the two movies throughout the awards season. And the messiness of the finale makes vivid what turned out to be the theme and the true political message of the night, which was inclusiveness.”
Yeah, but a new report released Tuesday indicates that white straight men still seriously dominate the industry—with LGBT representation a scant 1.1 percent.
The report, “Inequality in 900 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBT, and Disability from 2007-2016,” was produced by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The bottom line: there has been no significant change in the representation of women and minorities— with “white, straight, able-bodied men remaining the norm on screen in film.”
So that’s over an almost 10 year period. Surely 2016 was better. Not really. The team looked at the top 100 movies of that year and found that only 31.4% of A total of 4,583 speaking characters were women— a statistic that has not changed “meaningfully” over the 9 years evaluated.
Non-white groups accounted for 29.1% of characters, of whom 13.6% were black and 5.7% were Asian. Hispanic/Latinos were 3.1% of characters with more than half of all 2016 films featuring no Latinos. People with disabilities had only 2.7% of speaking characters.
But, despite “Moonlight,” only 1.1% of 4,5444 speaking characters were identifiably LGB, the majority, 36, were gay men (36), with 9 lesbians, and 6 bisexuals. “Not one character acorss the 100 top movies of 2016 was coded as transgender!” the report says. And only one film, “Moonlight,” featured a gay protagonist.
But that film won an Oscar that year!