Featured Resource: [ESSAY] “Representation” by Anoushka Ambavanekar

Anoushka Ambavanekar is a freshman at Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom, CA. Read her take on minority representation in Hollywood below.


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What would a truly diverse Hollywood ideally look like? What are examples of inclusive storytelling? #DoNowHollywood

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Lights, Camera…Diversity?

Hollywood has an inclusivity problem, according to a 2016 study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The study, conducted by USC’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative, examined North America’s 100 top-grossing films of 2015, and found that 68.8 percent of speaking or named characters were male and 73.7 percent were white. In the films analyzed, “12.2 percent of speaking characters were Black, 5.3 percent were Latino, 3.9 were Asian American, less than one percent were Middle Eastern, less than one percent were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 3.6 percent were of other or mixed race,” according to the report.

Social media campaigns like 2015’s #OscarsSoWhite helped raise awareness of the issue, leading to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Oscars voting body, to examine its membership and invite more representatives from diverse communities.

While the 2017 Oscars saw a record number of wins for Black artists, other minorities have yet to see much representation on Hollywood’s biggest stage.

USC Diversity DataChanelle Ignant | KQED Education

As one student sees it, this means progress in the industry, but not enough.

“Representation” by Anoushka Ambavanekar

My name is Anoushka Ambavanekar and I am a 15 year old Indian kid born in America. As a child, it was hard to find people who looked like me in the media and on TV. Most white kids had their pick of heroes. They wanted to be like Cinderella and Aurora, or Superman and Batman. For many kids of color like me, we didn’t have our pick of role models. The characters that we did see were all stereotyped versions of us. Whenever I would see an Indian character, I would get excited, until I realized that they were just another stereotypical “nerdy and smart” kid. As I grew older, things did not really change immensely. I started to see a little more representation of people of color in side characters, but rarely in the spotlight.

Today, there are a few shows that can be found starring people of color in non-stereotypical roles like Master of None, Quantico, Scandal, and Grey’s Anatomy. However, TV shows still do not represent the full diversity of America.

I remember watching the #OscarsSoWhite trend go viral last year. When the Oscars said they were going to do something about it, I was excited. I thought they would finally take the time to recognize the lack of people of color that are displayed in movies. However, they brought in all black speakers to talk about the lack of black people in the media. I was extremely disappointed. They had made things, quite literally, black and white. Even now, there is an immense lack of representation of many races in the media, including South Asians, East Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and many more.

With a wide variety of racial minorities in the media and on TV, kids like me would have more role models to pick from and look up to. Seeing this year’s Oscars nominees, I can see that some progress has been made. There was a wide variety of black nominees in various categories, resulting in a record number of wins by black artists. However, there was a grand total of one Asian, and no Latinos, Native Americans, or   other minorities, outside of the foreign language categories. While we have made a large step in the right direction, we still have a long way to go.

What’s your take on this issue? What would a truly diverse Hollywood ideally look like?


More Resources

VIDEO: The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism (TED)

The entire video is 15 minutes and 44 seconds. For brevity, we recommend watching until the 5:30 mark.

ARTICLE: Little “Meaningful Change’ In Hollywood Diversity: Report (NBC News)
“We’re seeing entrenched inequality,” Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and the study’s lead author, told the Associated Press. “Whether we’re studying gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT or characters with disabilities, we’re really seeing exclusionary forces leaving out anybody that’s not a straight, white, able-bodied man.

INTERACTIVE: What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (If You’re Not a Straight White Man) (The New York Times)
“Here, 27 industry players reveal the stories behind the numbers — their personal experiences of not feeling seen, heard or accepted, and how they pushed forward.”

ARTICLE: Films In 2016 Saw A Record Number of Female Lead Roles (CNN Media)

  • Yasmin Gonzalez

    While the information on the article was expected I was still surprised to see that there was less Latino speaking characters than African American speaking characters. My take on this is that it is typical, just like everything else in the U.S. its run by a majority of white males with little to no diversity. Yes it’s gotten a little better over time but its still not good enough. There should be a lot more diversity and people of all races should be given equal opportunities to star in these films. This Huffington post article talks about just how white hollywood is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/asian-american-actresses-speak-out-against-scarlett-johanssons-ghost-in-the-shell-casting_us_5717a698e4b0018f9cbbd121 Scarlet Johansson was given a part of a character that is Asian. Asian-American actresses have spoken out about this as they believe hollywood is being white washed. Even the parts that are supposed to be a specific race are played by white actresses and actors showing just how bad the situation is. I think we just need to include a lot more actors of different ethnicities especially when its what the part or character calls for. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

    • John Ramirez

      I agree with you, I think they need to better represent minorities. I think they need to be given more diverse roles, that projects the spectrums. #MyCMSTArgs

    • Hannah Fulks

      I agree with you. Something exciting that is happening soon, (that combats white actors and actresses from taking other’s roles), is that Pixar is creating a film about the Day of the Dead, called “Coco”. Every actor in this film is latino, and that is a huge step for Hollywood towards equality, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pixar-coco-dia-de-los-muertos_us_584886c1e4b0f9723d001587

      #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

  • John Ramirez

    I believe that inclusion is a big deal, especially in media. To be more specific , in Hollywood. The media shapes the publics outlook on certain groups, particularly minorities or marginalized groups creating greater stigmas or misrepresentation. I do understand that the academy tends to recognize only certain movies. However I believe that as a society we need to be more vocal on the issue yearly, not just during Oscar season. We need to begin to demand more diversity in film. Often times minorities or marginalized groups are playing the same stereotype roles. Like I mentioned there is an issue with the academy, but I also believe it is a bigger issue with in the film industry.

    • Ryan Sotelo

      I agree, there is an issue with the film industry and we shouldn’t only be vocal about these issues once a year. People need to voice their opinions and show that there needs to be a change and that people are not going to allow misrepresentation anymore. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

    • Zoe Atava

      I definitely agree on multiple points that you bring up. I definitely agree that there is misrepresentation dude to societal stigmatization of certain groups. Also, I agree that Hollywood shapes our societal views and that we need to be more vocal about it worldwide. We can truly ignite change if it was recognized as a social issue that many people are passionate about. The power of social media is immense, more people just have to be dedicated to the cause. #DoNowHollywood #MYCMSTArgs

  • Ryan Sotelo

    I believe that diversity is something that Hollywood has been infamously poor at, from having blackface and ‘savage Indians’ in old Hollywood films, it’s not surprising but inexcusable that to this day Hollywood is still inconclusive. While blackface and the savage Indian are no longer something you see, the difference from now and then is that the outright racism is no longer acceptable, but the discrimination is still something that is acceptable in the film industry. The star, Ken Jeong stated an old story from college when speaking to New York times, “A U.C.L.A. acting professor gave me good marks in my performance and [said]: “You’re a good actor, which is why I’m telling you, stay the hell out of L.A. There’s not much of a future for you. Go to Asia.” I got an A. He was saying that out of respect.”. While he is someone that you see in popular movies, the so called compliment he received from his teacher shows just how noninclusive Hollywood really is and that even with talented people, that is thrown out of the window when their ethnicity isn’t white. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/24/arts/hollywood-diversity-inclusion.html?_r=1. While Hollywood is taking steps towards being less white, it was invoked after a public outrage, and it shouldn’t have taken the media to call out Hollywood to make a difference in the Oscars. Hopefully Hollywood can make steps to improve inclusion and can promote more representation for minorities. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

    • Owen Smith

      I agree with the information you have presented. There is a definite lack of diversity and opportunity for specific people. I appreciated how you added both historical context, and then elaborated with examples from the present day. A complete and full analysis that improved my understanding of the situation.
      #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

  • Owen Smith

    Diversity in Hollywood is a historically nonexistent idea. If you compare the diversity Hollywood contained when it was originally created as an entity to what it is now, you could argue that we have made some progress. However, when you simply look at the statistics surrounding diversity within cinema, it is hard to make any argument that there is even a semblance of equality or fairness with respect to race and gender within the film industry. To answer the question, What would a truly diverse Hollywood look like?, the conclusion would be that Hollywood would look truly different from what it currently does. In popular American films, male roles compose almost 70 percent of talking roles, while white characters compose nearly 80 percent. These numbers help to represent the lack of diversity that is portrayed in films today. Roles that were written for minorities are constantly having white actors be cast into them. Films set in ancient China, Asia, and Africa all somehow contain predominantly Caucasian subjects with minor roles being filled out by their true and intended ethnicities. This is an issue I hope to see come to an end in film in the coming years. Films should be an accurate representation of the stories they tell, and as an industry they should offer fair and equal opportunity to all, regardless of color or sex.
    #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood
    http://annenberg.usc.edu/pages/~/media/MDSCI/Dr%20Stacy%20L%20Smith%20Inequality%20in%20800%20Films%20FINAL.ashx

    • Joshua Lewis

      I agree with your points here. While Hollywood is much better than general society regarding race and sexism, it’s not completely free from those arenas. Minorities in hollywood seem to get many more supporting roles rather than leading roles in television and film. http://www.debate.org/opinions/jesse-williams-delivers-speech-about-racism-at-the-bet-awards-is-hollywood-not-diverse-enough They seem to get recognition for their supporting role, but the white male still seems to be given the leads that are associated with a blockbuster film. This current situation we are faced with in Hollywood, calls for the need of more diverse voices, in order to shape and restructure the failing system put in place as entertainment. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

  • Morgan Reams

    Unfortunately, diversity in Hollywood is something that has been attempted but for some reason they always miss the mark. With recent movies like Fences, Lion, Moonlight and Hidden Figures we can see some attempted cinematic diversity but they still tell the same stories. Women are usually scantily dressed, black women are stereotypically “angry”, minority men are thugs and criminals, and gay men exhibit hyper-feminine traits. Hollywood loves to make slave movies but where are the movies about Asian culture, the genocide of the Native American people, or the representation of other groups throughout history? I don’t think that there is so much of a lack of diversity as there is a lack of positive representation. I think a truly diverse Hollywood would include everyone’s stories. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

    • Roxanne Galdos

      Wow, yes! I agree with you completely. I think that within the past year Hollywood has tried to compensate for the #OscarsSoWhite by creating films featuring diverse casts but they have still misrepresented those minorities. Along with the stereotypical roles that are shown, many films that are centralized in other parts of the world (where natives are POC) white actors and actresses are still casted: Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Emma Stone in Aloha, and Ben Affleck in Argo etc. Misrepresentation along with white-washing minority roles is something Hollywood needs to recognize and fix! #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Eva Gonzalez

    My take on this issue is simple, bring diversity to Hollywood! As a woman of color growing up, I wanted a Disney princess that represented me. I soon accepted that I would not attain that fair representation. I am tired of seeing minorities play the same stereotypical roles that end up damaging and creating these biased ideas of who they are as a whole. I cringe every time I see a Latina women in a show or a movie, they are often over sexualized, have a thick accent/ don’t speak english, or play the role of a maid. How hard is it to bring diversity into Hollywood? Maybe stop hiring heterosexual white men and women and start being inclusive. Hollywood needs to do a better job at portraying minorities, because what they are doing now is damaging. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

    • Grace Gerberich

      i completely agree with your stance that Hollywood needs to welcome diversity. It is so important for everyone no matter the background, race, or culture, to feel like they are well represented in the media. And especially for those children in this day in age to be able to look up to a role model that shares the same customs as them. #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Zoe Atava

    Having diversity in Hollywood has been nonexistent. Our social construct has been made to view white as “beautiful” and “deserving” of the public eye. However, I do believe that Hollywood has gone a long way in regards to inclusion of people with color. There are still many minorities left who are still underrepresented. In order for more people from different backgrounds to be recognized on higher platforms such as the Oscars, Its important for them to be incorporated into films. And in order to be incorporated into films, our societies tolerance, acceptance, and views on the beauty of other races need to be altered and broadened. A truly diverse Hollywood would mean a truly diverse mindset of our society. #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

    • Ciana Bell

      I agree Zoe, Hollywood has a long was to go but they have already come so far. I think that movements such as #OscarsSoWhite and having Hollywood Stars speaking out on the matter has helped to create for more equality. This will be a continuing struggle that Hollywood faces for years to come, as it is hard to change the ways of those who have been in the industry for many years now. I think that with continued incorporation of diverse individuals in Hollywood, overtime we will overcome our lacking diversity in Hollywood. #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Roxanne Galdos

    Like most aspects of life, Hollywood has always been predominantly focused around white people. While some progress has been made for minority actors and actresses roles, POCs are still underrepresented, misrepresented, and white-washed. The very few minorities that appear in films nowadays have only supporting roles that seem to always define the most negative stereotypes regarding POCs. Some of those stereotypes in movies tend to portray blacks as thugs, hispanics as the help, and asians as nerds. This fight for diversity has also led to movies involving characters and storylines from other parts of the world (where natives are POCs) but sadly these too are white-washed. So many characters that are not white are portrayed by a white cast: Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Emma Stone in Aloha, and Ben Affleck in Argo etc. Not to mention the movie Avatar: The Last Air Bender, a film about indigenous asians, was comprised of a cast the was predominately white, except for a handful of roles played by POCs that were all villains! This is an issue that needs to be recognized because I believe underrepresentation and misrepresentation of minorities within Hollywood directly affect the way younger generations of minorities grow up. It’s important that children are able to look up to on-screen characters as positive role models that they can relate to that also looks like them. Diversity in on-screen Hollywood is essential in promoting diversity off-screen. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/26-times-white-actors-played-people-of-color-and-no-one-really-gave-a-sht_us_56cf57e2e4b0bf0dab313ffc #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Ciana Bell

    As many have probably noticed, Hollywood has never been very diverse. It is predominantly white and often male oriented, everything from award shows to lead roles has typically been lacking in diversity. I do feel that the movement #OscarsSoWhite and having so many Hollywood role models speaking out on this diversity has helped with the issue that Hollywood is facing, however it is still an ongoing problem. It is hard to answer the question of what a truly diverse Hollywood would ideally look like. It is hard to please everyone and to make everyone feel fully equal in an industry such as this one. However, with that being said, I do feel that we need to continue to fight for diversity in Hollywood, it wont happen overnight but overtime with continued efforts I think that we can have a diverse Hollywood. I have attached a 2016 Hollywood diversity report for further proof that we do not have a diverse Hollywood. http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2016-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-25-16.pdf
    #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Carly Campbell

    Hollywood is somewhat diverse, and as you probably noticed more diverse that ever. That doesn’t mean that we need to discontinue more races and cultures from entering hollywood, because I think we should embrace these cultures and allow more and more minorities into acting. I’ve noticed fro the reading the highest percentage of people in hollywood are white. If we invite all people from different background we can make the gap even, and allow a higher amount of minorities in acting. As you can tell, I think we should also incorporate more cultures and races into movie rolls, and with that being said we should appropriate those rolls. For example, gay men are always seen as very feminine, women are seen as scandalous and black people as thugs. This should not be the case because it plays into too many stereotypes. We should do inclusive storytelling by making movies that actually portray cultures and people how they are, not just by what people think they are. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/02/12/275907930/redefining-hollywood-diversity-makes-more-money #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Grace Gerberich

    Since I was young up until today, Hollywood has come a long way, but not long enough. The number of white actors and actresses still continues to blow every other race and culture out of the water. You would think that after all this time and how far our country has come, that this would no longer be the case. Hollywood needs to be more welcoming and accepting of these minorities when hiring new actors and actresses. In doing so every race will be far more represented and every culture will be embraced so that growing up any kind of children will have a role model, with their same background, to look up to. We also must work on straying away from stereotypes. No one group fits perfectly under a certain category or way of life. Instead we must pay close attention to representing these cultures or races appropriately to their own liking. As long as we work toward this goal we will slowly achieve it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/asian-american-actresses-speak-out-against-scarlett-johanssons-ghost-in-the-shell-casting_us_5717a698e4b0018f9cbbd121 #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

  • Joshua Lewis

    Hollywood dominates much of the worlds media and attempts to represent the diverse status quo of the western world today. Unfortunately, Hollywood fails on many levels to accurately represent and communicate equality on screen. This dynamic that hollywood is perpetuating needs to be changed in order to strengthen community relationships. http://www.debate.org/opinions/do-western-movies-promote-sexism-within-our-society says western movies have their place. All movies promote bias’ in some way; we are humans, and until everyone is equal in every way, people will always be able to find ‘hidden messages’ in movies, music and books, even if they were not written that way. On the other hand, culturally diverse voices of people and of women are suppressed and are not allowed at the same table at all levels. The trends may be changing slightly in modern times, but the process is slow and tedious. Racial minorities make up a small portion of major characters in Hollywood productions, and it’s often the same few actors and actresses who are cast in minority roles. Even worse is the number of male actors in important roles vs. the number of females. Females generally only play a few specific roles in Hollywood films, while men dominate the important roles. Hollywood and its entirety, needs to refocus its attention on maintaining integrity on all levels because this would be a huge and dangerous scandal if they were only hiring white people for roles. #DoNowHollywood #MyCMSTArgs

    • Justis Haruo Kusumoto

      I agree with your complaints about gender and racial diversity in Hollywood films. Considering that less than 28% of all speaking roles on average go to racial minorities and less than a third go to women, it is still a major setback in the film industry. However, it is important to note that there is no real clear solution to this problem. Do we mandate racial quotas for speaking roles? Do we mandate gender quotas for speaking roles? How would enforcement work? What would be a minimum benchmark for female and racial roles? Do we base it on the 2010 census?
      Or, maybe we should invest in more affordable professional film schools so that we can attract socioeconomically disadvantaged racial minorities?

  • Justis Haruo Kusumoto

    What would a truly diverse Hollywood ideally look like? What are examples of inclusive storytelling? #DoNowHollywood

    A truly diverse Hollywood would have 40-60% of its speaking roles in films occupied by women, and at least 28% occupied by minorities. While, according the the US Census Bureau here, https://www.census.gov/2010census/data/ the United States is approximately 72% white as a whole, and 28% are racial and ethnic minorities, Hollywood should at the very least delegate about 28% of its speaking roles to minorities, and 40-60% to women. Because of the dearth of racial and sexual diversity in films, it is difficult to find examples of inclusive storytelling. I suppose Rogue One would be an example of semi-inclusive storytelling, as the main protagonist is female, and one of the other main speaking roles is held by a Hispanic male with a thick foreign accent. It also included a minor role for a couple of Asian actors, but beyond that, it still fell short in diversity. However, in the context of the status quo, it is from what I can tell the most inclusive mainstream movie I have seen in the last several years.

    But we can talk all day about how we need diversity and not come up with any specific ideas for curbing it. A recent New York Times article https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/nyregion/lights-camera-color-new-film-school-focuses-on-industrys-diversity.html?_r=0 documents a possible antidote to this diversity drought in Hollywood. The Fernstein Academy in New York, a new film school, has one of the most diverse populations of students, in no small part due to its relatively low cost ($18k in tuition a year compared to film schools at USC and NYU that ask for north of $60k a year in tuition). However, according to the New York Times, the Fernstein Academy has cutting edge facilities that even exceed USC, which is considered the most prestigious film school.

  • David Koenig

    What a joke. “Diversity” is code word for ANTI WHITE. Know your fking place in this society. Crybabies screaming about “diversity” can go back to Africa where I’m sure they’ll have a great time fighting for scraps.

  • Hannah Fulks

    Hollywood is not as diverse as it should be. Hollywood dominates societies in many ways, as being the main form of entertainment for many. Just last year, the 2016 Oscars were deemed to be supporting whites only. #OscarsSoWhite became a trending hash tag that was created to draw attention to the lack of diversity in the nominee pool. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-oscars-so-white-reaction-htmlstory.html

    If Hollywood was truly representative of the population it is entertaining, it would be 50% women, 16% black, 24% white, and 60 % asian (world proportions). http://www.100people.org/statistics_100stats.php?section=statistics

    Hollywood needs to better represent the population that they are working to entertain, as everyone should have a fair chance in achieving their goals of being in film. #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

  • Brigitte Dahrouj

    Everyone seems to be obsessed with proportions based on population demographics. Here’s the thing, some of those minority actors are on minority specific shows. To me, that’s not diverse casting. Tyler Perry shows with all black casts or Fresh off the boat with an all Asian cast is no more diverse than an all white cast. Diversity to me means a diverse casting in each show or movie. Grey’s Anatomy has a pretty diverse cast, they have a pretty equal amount of males and females, Whites, Asians, Blacks, Latinos, foster children, and the LGBT community are all represented. So when you say there’s however many black people in Hollywood, yes I agree there should be more of them, but I also think they need to be in roles outside of all black casts. To me diversity in Hollywood means 1) the casts are representative of all or most minority and majority groups. 2) It passes the Bechdel test (if you don’t know what it is, here is a link: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/08/call-it-the-bechdel-wallace-test/402259/) 3) yes, I also think the minority group representation should be equal to the US census population percentages, but not only in Hollywood as a whole, but in each show/movie.
    #MyCMSTArgs #DoNowHollywood

Author

Chanelle Ignant

Chanelle is the Youth Participation Coordinator for KQED Education. She has worked with various Bay Area youth media organizations and is an independent media maker.

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