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New USC Anneberg Study: Inequality in 900 Popular Films


Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg are proud to announce their newest study, entitled Inequality in 900 Popular Films.

The study, released July 31, 2017, reveals how little top-grossing movies have changed when it comes to the on screen prevalence and portrayal of females, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the LGBT community, and individuals with disabilities. The study is the largest and most comprehensive intersectional analysis of characters in motion picture content to date.


A few key takeaways from the investigation of 900 top films from 2007 to 2016 (excluding 2011) and 39,788 characters:

  • Less than one-third of speaking characters on screen from all 9 years were girls/women, including just 31.4% of characters in the 100 top movies of 2016
  • Characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were 29.2% of all characters in the top-grossing films of 2016, which is not different from 2015
  • LGBT-identified characters represented 1.1% of all speaking characters, a percentage not different from 2015
  • Characters with disabilities filled only 2.7% of all speaking roles, which is not different from last year

The results reveal that there has been little to no meaningful change in the representation of these diverse groups in popular movie content since 2015.


The report’s “invisibility analysis” reveals that beyond the overall statistics, Hollywood fails to portray female speaking characters from diverse groups altogether. Across the 100 top films of 2016:

  • 47 films did not feature one Black or African American female
  • 66 movies did not include on Asian or Asian American female
  • 72 films did not depict one Hispanic/Latina female
  • 91 movies had not one LGBT female 

The study also focused behind the camera, where it examined the gender of directors, producers, writers, and composers in 2016; as well as taking a critical intersectional look at directors of the 900 movies. It also assessed the gender of composers over time. Only 1.4% of composers were female between 2007 and 2016.

Out of the 1,006 directors hired on the 900 films studied:

  • Just 4.1% were female 
  • Only 5.6% of the directors were Black or African American
  • A mere 3% were Asian or Asian American
  • 3 Black or African-American women and 2 Asian women worked as directors  


Read the full report.

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts