Despite Hollywood’s attempt to be more inclusive in recent years, Latinos remain woefully underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera, a new study finds.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California released a study Friday that found that of the 100 top-grossing films each year from 2007 to 2018, only three percent featured Latino actors in lead or co-lead roles. Producers and casting executives fared badly, too, with Latinos making up only three percent. And they were equally rare in the director’s chair, helming four percent of movies studied during the 12-year period. In all, only 4.5 percent of the 47,268 speaking roles studied by researchers went to Latino actors.
The research was conducted in partnership with Wise Entertainment and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, which promotes the work of Latino content creators.
“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 the association, said in a statement.
The results, the study said, do not reflect the number of Hispanic people living and working in the United States. According the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic people tallied 59.9 million in 2017, or 18.1 percent of the nation’s population. The bureau estimates, too, that by 2045, one in four Americans will be Hispanic.
A bright spot was that of the three percent of Latino actors in lead or co-lead roles, about half were women. Among those were Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba. But even those numbers were skewed: Five of the 17 prominent roles played by Latina women went to Ms. Diaz, said the study. Additionally, Ms. Lopez was the only woman older than 45 in a lead role.
Sometimes, too, Latino characters ended up playing into unfounded stereotypes. Nearly one-quarter of speaking roles portrayed them as criminal. “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,” Stacy Smith, the director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, said in the statement.
The market in the United States for movies with Latino characters is largely untapped. A 2018 study conducted by the Motion Picture Association of America showed Hispanic and Latino audiences had their highest annual attendance that year, going to the movies an average of 4.7 times a year. A year earlier, “Coco,” the Pixar film that told the story of a Mexican boy who meets his ancestors, was one of the year’s biggest hits, winning an Oscar and earning $807 million at the worldwide box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.