Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rampant Discrimination in the Entertainment Industry

Do cinema and TV companies continue to discriminate against African-Americans, women, and the LGBT population?

It is strange to find that, in the so-called "liberal" entertainment industry, discrimination against people because of color, gender, and sexual identity is still rampant. Though it can't be denied that we've come a long way from the days of "black faced" white performers and the frequent portrayals of women and LGBT individuals as caricatures, a new study has exposed enormous discrepancies in employment practices in major media companies.

It's Not Only Oscar Who Discriminates

The concern about gender, race, and ethnicity discrimination in the entertainment industry has been recently brought to the fore by the absence of African-American nominees for the Academy Awards -- for the second straight year. The recent study is even more inflammatory, demonstrating as it does that much of the discrimination takes place behind the scenes. Not only are the actors in movies and television shows misrepresenting the diversity of the population of the U.S., but the entertainment industry as a whole is discriminating against women, minorities and LGBT people in hiring and promotion.

The new study, released Monday by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism provides a broad evaluation of the film and television industries. This evaluation includes an "inclusivity index" of 10 major media companies, including Disney and Netflix, rates every movie studio and most TV studios as failures.

The Actual Statistics

The study, entitled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, examined the 109 films released by major studios (including art film divisions) in 2014, 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services that aired from September 2014 to August 2015.

The study analyzed 11,000 speaking characters for gender racial and ethnic representation and LGBT status. Perhaps even more telling, the study also examined 10,000 writers, directors and TV show creators and the gender of more than 1500 executives. On every level, the industry failed to reflect the diversity of the culture it portrays. From CEOs to bit-parts, the industry is, the study concluded, "still largely whitewashed."

This study scored each film studio according to its percentage of female, minority and LGBT characters, and of female writers and directors. Not one of the six major studies rated better than 20 percent! Time Warner was rated worst, coming in at zero percent. The report concludes that the film industry "still functions as a straight, white, boy's club." Some of these same companies did score higher in terms of television and digital offerings, with Disney and Amazon scoring 65 percent.

While the actor ratios representing diversity were poor, the exclusivity behind the scenes was even more apparent. Film directors were 87 percent white and TV directors were 90.4 percent white. Women may, in some ways, "have come a long way," but just 15.2 percent of directors, 28.9 percent of writers and 22.6 percent of series creators were female. The film gender gap is greatest: Only 3.4 percent of the films studied were directed by women, and only two directors out of the 109 were black women.

Clearly, the old white boys club is still alive and kicking. Hopefully, the publication of this study and the commotion surrounding the Oscars will help to move the entertainment industry in the right direction. Employment discrimination is not acceptable anywhere, least of all in an industry that has prided itself on being diverse and outspoken about civil rights.

If you experience employment discrimination in terms of hiring, compensation, promotion, or termination, or are suffering harassment at the workplace, you should contact a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in the field.

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