Latinx are the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. making up 18.1 percent of the nation’s population. However, the number of Latinx actors and filmmakers in Hollywood — and other industries — don’t reflect this reality.
Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in partnership with National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment released a new report tracking the lack of representation of the Latinx community in Hollywood both in front and behind the camera.
Only 3 percent of movies featured Latinx actors in lead roles from 2007 through 2018 in the 100 top-grossing films. J. Lo, Cameron Diaz, Eugenio Derbez, and Jessica Alba held 16 of those 35 lead roles surveyed. The report also saw that nearly one-half of the Latinx leads or co-leads were women, but five of the 17 leading ladies were played by Cameron Diaz, who is of Cuban descent. Only eight male and two female leads (both played by J.Lo), co-leads or members of an ensemble cast were 45 years of age or older at the time of theatrical release.
In all, Latinx characters made up only 4.5 percent of the 47,268 total studied.
Thank you Dr. Stacy Smith, @Inclusionists @NALIP_org @wiseentertain for highlighting the strength in the Latino $$ but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Our presence in films needs to increase! #LatINclusion #StartWith20Percent pic.twitter.com/nS7UxMJc6N
— Eva Longoria Baston (@EvaLongoria) August 27, 2019
“The erasure of the Latino community in film creates a void that has been allowed to be filled by hateful and violent rhetoric,” Mauricio Mota, co-president of Wise Entertainment and producer of the Emmy-nominated Hulu series “East Los High” said in a statement. “It is imperative that the talented storytellers from our community are given opportunities to tell the diverse and vibrant narratives of the Latino audience.”
But the lack of representation doesn’t stop there, the erasure of Latinx identity is prevalent in the characters in films. Across the 100 top-grossing films of 2018, 47 were completely missing a speaking or named Latinx character and 70 were missing Latinas.
Not to mention, there’s also the issue of the “sexy Latina” stereotype or the “Latino criminal” stereotype. Latina characters were also found to be more likely to be sexualized than their Black or Asian female counterparts, as well as their Latino counterparts. Twenty- four percent of all Latinx speaking characters across 200 popular films were shown to be criminals and 12 percent were “temperamental or angry.” Thirty-six percent were isolated, without community, or anything specifically tying them to their heritage.
It’s also important to note folks from the LGBTQIA+ community and those with a disability is also dismal with only five out of 500 and 13 out of 400 films included characters with these experiences — respectively, between 2014 and 2018.
Representation behind the camera is no better with Latinx directors making up only 4 percent and just 3 percent of producers, 78 of those credits were held by Latinos and 19 were held by Latinas. Mexican director Patricia Riggen, who helmed the 2015 film about the Chilean mining disaster The 33, was the only Latinx woman out of the 1,335 total directors studied.
Latinas are leaders as grassroots organizers, in politics, business & more, yet Hollywood fails to recognize them in film. Only 1 Latina directed a top film over 12 years + 1200 movies. One. Her name is Patricia Riggen. And she shouldn’t stand alone. https://t.co/JMGtcIC3Ln pic.twitter.com/67EsNje8iN
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 26, 2019
Gina Rodriguez, who starred in Miss Bala, a film released in 2019 with a cast that was 95 percent Latinx has openly discussed the lack of Latinx representation in films for years now. “Latinos make up one out of every four tickets sold at the multiplex. They are among the highest population of moviegoers. We need to hear our stories. We want movies to reflect our culture,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
According to an MPAA report from 2017, Latinx had the highest annual attendance per capita, going to the movies on an average of 4.5 times a year, buying 23 percent of the tickets sold in 2017. With such a large population in the U.S. AND buying power — one would think Hollywood would try to capitalize on telling Latinx stories but this study shows that it’s clearly not the case.
“No matter which part of the film ecosystem we examined, Latinos were vastly underrepresented,” Professor Smith said in a statement. “This community represents nearly half of Angelenos, 39% of Californians, and 18% of the U.S. population. 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.”
We hope this study encourages the film industry to become more conscious of telling our stories and the stories of other underrepresented communities. It’s time to change.