Latinx Representation in Media is Declining, Study Finds

Despite being 20% of the population, the numbers of Latinxs in front of and behind the camera is decreasing, according to a new study

Latinx representation Hollywood

Photo: Unsplash/ Amy Elting

Latinx representation in Hollywood has always been a mixed bag. For decades, we’ve been depicted as maids, criminals, and drug dealers, and it’s only been in recent years that we’ve been finally seen as heroes and fully developed characters in starring roles. In the U.S. alone, we make up 20 percent of the population and yet when it comes to entertainment, we’re more often than not stereotyped if we’re included at all. But despite the fact that our presence on-screen has never been stronger, the amount of representation we’ve received in film and TV is declining in every category. For four years, the number of Latinx actors, writers, showrunners, and directors increased, only to fall again in 2021, and it’s affecting what platforms Latinx viewers are using, according to the Latino Donor Collaborative’s 2023 Latinos in Media diversity report released on September 27. 

“Latinos are loyal to a point, but when they see that there’s no authenticity, they don’t stay,” said president and CEO of the Latino Donor Collaborative Ana Valdez, according toThe Hollywood Reporter. “They need authentic content, and in order to have authentic content, you need creators of the content that are authentic. There’s such few directors. There’s such few writers, people behind the camera, the same as talent, are almost none…We’re invisible.”

The Latino Donor Collaborative is a nonprofit that studies how the Latinx community is perceived in the U.S. in all aspects of society and culture, including media and entertainment. Their annual study found dismal results when it came to our community’s involvement and representation in film and TV. When it came to lead roles, only 3.3 percent of shows and 5.7 percent of films featured Latinx main characters, with just 10.5 percent of films featuring a Latinx co-lead. Interestingly, that 10.5 percent of films made up more than half of this year’s most profitable films, proving that having a Latinx presence is in fact a good business move. When it came to film staff, we only made up 6.1 percent of screenwriters and 4.9 percent of directors.

The same was true across major streaming platforms like Netflix, Max, Apple TV, Disney+, and Hulu. One of the most startling statistics was that despite releasing over 100 shows this year alone, Netflix only featured a Latinx lead in five of them. Some services like Disney+ did increase but overall struggled to prioritize our community in their productions. It was even worse on cable networks, where MGM+, Paramount, Showtime and Starz featured no Latinx leads at all or, like Paramount, failed to hire any Latinx staff behind the camera too.

As a result of this failure to include Latinx stories and talent, the study found that the community has shifted to new platforms like TikTok and YouTube for entertainment and authentic content. Because there’s more freedom and creativity on these apps, as well as greater numbers of Latinx creators, the study found that TikTok is used by 31 percent of the Latinx population, 10 percent more than any other ethnic group. Meanwhile, Latinxs used YouTube 57 percent more than non-Latinx white people. The numbers paint a clear picture—we know when we’re not being prioritized and go to the places where we feel seen and represented. Despite the proven success of Latinx-led shows like Jane the Virgin and Primos to films like Blue Beetle, Coco, and Encanto, this study shows our community is not prioritized or valued.

“They’ve seen success with the initiatives that they’ve had with African Americans. They’ve seen success with their initiatives with Asians, so they should start making intentional initiatives within the Latino community,” Valdez said. “We love seeing the advancement of African Americans and Asians because they deserve it, [and] we know that Hollywood can do it. Now, they need to do it for us.”

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