In a time of #OscarsSoWhite, #MeToo and Time’s Up, this year’s Oscar nominations were hailed as a sign that Hollywood was finally shifting in the right direction for gender parity and racial diversity.

Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) were both nominated for best director. Previously, there have been only four nominations for either a female or black director in the category. Kathryn Bigelow remains the only woman to have ever won, and a black director has yet to do so.

Gerwig and Peele are, respectively, the fifth female and black nominations for best director. Kathryn Bigelow is the only prior female winner. No black director has won.

(Getty Images for SBIFF)

Oscar voters also nominated a woman for the first time for best cinematography: “Mudbound’s” Rachel Morrison. That film’s director/co-writer, Dee Rees, became only the second African American woman ever nominated for a screenplay award.

But despite these strides forward, representation both behind and in front of the camera remains stagnant. Research from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative shows that women are significantly underrepresented as directors. This lack of parity is even more pronounced for people of color.

Hollywood’s image of a director is still a white man

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative looked at the top-grossing 100 movies released every year from 2007 to 2017, for a total of 1,100 movies. Of those movies, they found a total of 665 unique directors, as some directors worked on more than one film. Each dot in the graphic represents one of these directors.

The research found that people of color are underrepresented. Out of 665 top directors, 31 are black and 20 are Asian. The Annenberg study did not look at male Hispanic/Latino directors, but Washington Post research (using the same data source) found at least 24 identifiable Hispanic/Latino directors.

Non-black or non-Asian directors tend to make more than one film at a higher percentage than black or Asian directors. 29 percent of black directors made more than one film, compared with 43.5 percent of non-black directors. And 35 percent of Asian directors made more than one film, compared with 43.1 percent of non-Asian directors.

Women are also underrepresented. There are only 43 unique female directors, and of those 43, seven are women of color.

Four are black: Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince‐Bythewood, Sanaa Hamri and Stella Meghie. Two are Asian: Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Loveleen Tandan. One is Hispanic/Latina: Patricia Riggen.

84 percent of female directors make just one film; only seven women directed more than one movie. Of those seven women, Jennifer Yuh Nelson is the only woman of color. (She directed “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Kung Fu Panda 3.”)

The Annenberg team also concluded that there has not been meaningful change in the representation of female or non-white directors across the top films from 2007 to 2017. And that even when a woman does helm a movie, “Hollywood's image of a female director is a white woman.”

Ava Duvernay

Gina Prince‐Bythewood

Sanaa Hamri

Stella Meghie

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Loveleen Tandan

Patricia Riggen

Number of women on screen remains stagnant over the years

Percentage of female speaking roles (2011 is not included in this data).

29.9%

31.4%

30

20

10

0

2007

2016

When it comes to the actors in front of the camera, representation is lacking as well. The Annenberg team looked at inequality in 900 popular films from 2007 to 2016 (2011 was excluded), using the top-grossing 100 films domestically from each year according to Box Office Mojo. They found that women had far fewer speaking roles compared with men.

“Women are half of the population and half of the ticket buyers, but they're still less than a third of all speaking characters [in films],” said Katherine Pieper, a research scientist at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Beyond small year-to-year fluctuations, “we haven't seen the numbers for director or for females on screen really change in a meaningful way.”

Female characters are also often sexually objectified. The percentage of female characters in “sexy attire” is drastically higher compared with those of male characters.

Percentages of female vs. male character objectification

Numbers are based on the top 100 films of 2016.

Female

Male

0

10

20%

25.9%

Sexy attire

5.7%

25.6%

Some nudity

9.2%

10.7%

Referenced

as attractive

3.2%

Percentages of female vs. male character objectification

Numbers are based on the top 100 films of 2016.

Female

Male

0

5

10

15

20

25%

25.9%

Sexy attire

5.7%

25.6%

Some nudity

9.2%

10.7%

Referenced

as attractive

3.2%

Percentages of female vs. male character objectification

Numbers are based on the top 100 films of 2016.

Female

Male

13‐20 year old females were just as likely to be shown partially or fully nude as 21‐39 year olds.

0

5

10

15

20

25%

25.9%

Sexy attire

5.7%

“Sexy attire” was defined as “tight or revealing apparel that draws attention to the curves, angles, or details of the body between the neck line and upper thigh region.”

25.6%

Some nudity

9.2%

10.7%

Referenced

as attractive

3.2%

Movies are still overwhelmingly white, with over 70 percent of speaking roles going to white actors. However, minority groups buy movie tickets at a higher percentage relative to their population compared with caucasians. “Black Panther,” which had a black director and a majority-black cast, smashed its way to one of the biggest box office openings ever, challenging the myth that movies led by black actors can’t be successful. (Adjusting for inflation, “Black Panther” has the seventh-biggest opening of all time.) But researchers still emphasize that real change won’t happen until there is more representation across all films, not just in one or two prominent ones.

Majority of speaking roles still belong to white actors

Percentages of characters by race based on the top 100 movies of 2016.

Asian

5.7%

Hispanic/Latino

3.1%

Other

7%

Black

13.6%

White

70.8%

“We have seen in the past cultural moments where we have … a few notable films that sit on the minds of the population in terms of them being symbolic of representation,” said Marc Choueiti, project administrator at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. “We want to see that occur more regularly and frequently across the system … rather than just pointing to specific examples where they stand in for something that we don’t see across the board.”

Minorities buy more movie tickets relative to

their population

2016 population and ticket buyers broken down by race.

Population

Tickets sold

White

White

51%

62%

Hispanic

21%

Hispanic

18%

Black

14%

Black

12%

Asian/

Other

Asian/

Other

14%

8%

Minorities buy more movie tickets relative to their population

2016 population and ticket buyers broken down by race.

Asian/

Other

Hispanic

White

Black

18%

62%

12%

8%

Population

Tickets

sold

21%

51%

14%

14%

Hispanic

White

Black

Asian/

Other

Minorities buy more movie tickets relative to their population

2016 population and ticket buyers broken down by race.

Hispanic

Asian/Other

White

Black

18%

62%

12%

8%

The Asian/Other category

overrepresented the most of any group in terms of tickets purchased.

Population

Tickets

sold

Caucasians also have the lowest per capita attendance, going to the movies an average of 3.2 times in 2016.

21%

51%

14%

14%

Hispanic

White

Black

Asian/Other

With everything going on in Hollywood — from women speaking up for Time’s Up to movies such as “Get Out” and “Black Panther” serving as much-needed representation — it feels like a moment of change.

Some of this change has already happened in concrete ways; in the years since #OscarsSoWhite began, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science has increased its proportion of women and people of color. In June, the group allowed in a record 774 new members, nearly a third of them people of color. But only time can tell if a movie culture currently dominated and defined by white men will continue to move toward parity.

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Sources

Data on directors and diversity in film from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s reports: “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?” and “Inequality in 900 Popular Films.” Movie ticket buyer data from the Motion Picture Association of America’s “Theatrical Market Statistics 2016” report. Additional information from Post research.

Photos from Getty Images.

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