Monday, August 10, 2015

AT THE MOVIES - Failing Diversity

"Why do most movies still fail to reflect U.S. diversity?" PBS NewsHour 8/7/2015


SUMMARY:  In a survey of the 100 top grossing films between 2007 and 2014, 30 percent of all speaking or named characters were women; less than 30 percent of such roles went to actors who were not white.  Jeffrey Brown talks to Dylan Marron, blogger for "Every Spoken Word," and Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post about the widespread lack of diversity in Hollywood.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Special effects, action and suspense, big production films in recent years have provided plenty of what audiences have come to expect, including, according to various studies, a widespread lack of diversity.

The latest research comes from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.  The survey of the annual 100 top grossing films between 2007 and 2014 found that just 30 percent of all speaking or named characters were women, while 73 percent of such roles went to whites.

As to the filmmakers, only about 2 percent of the movies were directed by women.  The Web site Every Single Word has made a mission of highlighting the lack of diversity in movies by compiling every line spoken by a person of color in any major film.  This video, from the 2014 movie “Maleficent,” lasted just 18 seconds.

This creator of Every Single Word, Dylan Marron, joins us now.  He’s also an actor and writer.  Also with us, Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday.

Well, Dylan Marron, you have been documenting this for a long time.  How does this new study sharpen the picture?  What jumps out at you?

DYLAN MARRON, Every Single Word:  I think a lot jumps out.

One of the biggest things that jumped out for me is the correlation between black directors and putting black characters in their movie.  And that speaks a lot to this conversation we have of we need more creators.  The creators are already out there, but what we need do is we need to take those creators and we need to project their stories onto a bigger screen and they need to be distributed to a larger audience.

And that way, there will be more accurate reflections of the populations that they’re serving.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You’re an actor yourself, so you have seen this play out?

DYLAN MARRON:  I have seen this firsthand.

Yes, I have seen it in meetings with agents.  I have seen it in casting calls.  And I have just seen it in general reception.

JEFFREY BROWN:  So, Ann Hornaday, we have talked about this before.  For both women and African-Americans, actors and directors, there have been some very successful and critically acclaimed films, especially in recent years.  Do we see these as exceptions?  What do you see when you look out there?

ANN HORNADAY, Film Critic, The Washington Post:  Well, absolutely.

You know, the last couple of years have really seen a flowering, and we have seen this wonderful renaissance in African-American filmmaking, from the likes of Dee Rees and Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler, and Gina Prince-Bythewood, of course, who has been around for a while, but has just been doing wonderful work.

So there’s been a lot to celebrate.  And then this year, a number of the top 10 movies this year are female-centric, from things like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Cinderella” to “Spy” and “Trainwreck,” also did very well this summer.

And there are smaller movies that are featuring women, like “Ricki and the Flash” is coming out this weekend and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.”  Things like this, studies like this, we get these statistics as sort of a steady drumbeat, and it’s just a reminder that we should remember not to fall over ourselves with gratitude for crumbs, when the bigger picture, as you point out, is a lot more sobering.

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