Hollywood big-screen diversity out of step with US: Study

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Hollywood has not meaningfully increased the number of minority characters on the big screen and Hispanics were the most underrepresented in films, a study released on Monday said.

About three-quarters of film characters were white last year, which was in line with annual totals over the previous five years, according to the study, conducted by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

But in its evaluation of 3,932 speaking characters in 100 films from last year, researchers determined that 5 per cent of characters on screen were Hispanics compared with 17.1 per cent of the US population in 2013, according to government figures.

"Hispanics and Latinos are one of the fastest-growing groups in the US," Marc Choueiti, an author of the study, said in a statement. "If popular films were the only way to gauge diversity, viewers would be completely unaware of this. Individuals from this group are almost invisible on screen." Furthermore, the study found that Hispanic men and women were the most sexualised group in Hollywood, with 37.5 per cent of female characters shown partially or fully naked, and 16.5 per cent of males portrayed in revealing or tight clothing.

Black actors fared better, the study found, with 14.1 per cent of the speaking parts. Blacks make up 13.2 per cent of the US population.

But only five of the 107 directors credited in the movies examined were black, the study found. Black directors, who were all male, were also more likely to direct black actors.

Minority-directed films, however, scored big at this year's Oscar awards with 12 Years a Slave, a film by Steve McQueen, who became the first black director to win the best picture honour. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron took home the best director award for his outer space drama Gravity.

The study faulted Hollywood for not changing the representation of minorities in line with demographic changes in the United States, where nearly half of children younger than five are not white. "Despite the demographic changes at work in the US, films still portray a homogenised picture of the world," the study said, adding that the findings "illustrate how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen".