Islanders in Asia and the Pacific made up less than 6% of speaking roles and less than 4% of leading and co-directing roles in Hollywood films, according to comprehensive new study from USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative .
The study, titled The prevalence and portrayal of the inhabitants of the islands of Asia and the Pacific through 1,300 popular films, comes at a time of rising violence and racism against Asian Americans and the report’s key findings show that Hollywood is failing to meaningfully represent the API while continuing to peddle harmful stereotypes of the community.
The report’s authors, Dr Nancy Wang Yuen, Dr Stacy L. Smith, Dr Katherine Pieper, Marc Choueiti, Kevin Yao and Dana Dinh, examined the portrayal of API in 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019. The API was any character. who was Asian, Pacific Islander, and / or native of Hawaii alone or in combination with other races / ethnicities, using U.S. Census designations.
The study examined a total of 51,159 speaking characters over a 13-year period and found that only 3,034, or 5.9%, were API characters. Additionally, there was little to no significant increase in API representation over the period. In 2019, API characters with speaking parts accounted for 8.4% of total roles in Hollywood movies, down from 9.6% in 2018 and a slight increase from 7.5% in 2008. Overall, the report found that the percentage of API characters across 13 years of top-grossing movies (5.9%) is slightly lower than the percentage of API people in the US population (7.1%). .
When it comes to API actors leading Hollywood movies, the numbers were even more telling. Of the 1,300 films analyzed, only 44, or 3.4%, featured a lead or co-lead API, compared to 336 films directed / co-directed by white male actors. Dwayne Johnson, Keanu Reeves and Jon Cho were the API actors who had the most lead roles during the period, with Constance Wu and Hailee Steinfeld the actresses scoring the most lead / co-lead roles with two each.
White male actors were more likely to direct or co-direct a Hollywood movie than an API actor by a ratio of 15.3: 1, which drops to 84: 1 when comparing white male actors and women API. The authors of the report say that “Actors named Ben, Chris, Daniel, James, Jason, John, Josh, Michael, Robert, Sean or Tom were more likely to be hired as the best actor in a movie than they were. any API actress with any name auditioning all over Hollywood. “
The report also found that 507, or 39%, of the 1,300 films had no API characters, with that number rising to 94.2% when only considering characters native to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
Behind the camera, the situation was no better. A total of 1,447 directors were credited on the 1,300 highest-grossing films from 2007 to 2019, of which only 3.5% were APIs. Of the 50 films with API directors over the 13-year period, 25 filmmakers were responsible for that number of which only 3 were women. The 25 API directors included bold names like M. Night Shyamalan, Taika Waititi, Ang Lee, Jon M. Chu, Bong Joon Ho, James Wan and Justin Lin as well as promising filmmakers like Aneesh Chaganty and Destin Daniel Cretton.
No female API has been credited as the sole director of a top-grossing live-action feature film between 2007 and 2019, with Loveleen Tanden credited as the co-director of Slumdog Millionaire, Jennifer Yuh Nelson twice credited for directing the animated feature Kung Fu Panda 2 and co-leader Kung Fu Panda 3. The all-conqueror of Chloe Zhao Nomadic country released in 2020.
Only 2.5% of the 3,952 film producers credited during the period were APIs, with 85.7% of those API producers being men and only 14.3% women. As for casting directors, 3.3% were API, with 84.9% of API female casters and 15.1% API male.
Interestingly, the study found that movies with an API director attached had more API leads / co-leads than movies without an API director attached. A similar but less pronounced trend emerged with producers and the presence of an API casting director was not associated with the prevalence of leads and API co-leads.
At the studio management level, API was only 6.4% at major studios (Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Company, including 20th Century, and Warner Bros.). None of the API executives were at the president or CEO level.
Among the companies analyzed, the study found that “Netflix had the highest number of API leads / co-leads, PR movies, API directors, API producers and API launchers among 9 companies evaluated. Netflix also distributed 126 U.S. fictional films on its platform in 2018 and 2019, allowing for greater breadth and depth of hiring on screen and behind the camera. In fact, 4 out of 5 indicators on Netflix movies were above proportional representation according to the U.S. Census. “
The report also revealed that Hollywood continues to perpetuate stereotypes and harmful tropes of the API community. API characters were more likely to be consumable in movies, to appear as sidekicks or villains, or as symbolic characters stripped of romantic and family relationships or friendships.
Analysis revealed that there were films that presented API characters as “the perpetual stranger” with exaggerated non-English or foreign accents. Female API characters were also prone to hypersexualization, with the characters often depicted naked, partially clad, or dressed in sexy clothing, fueling the societal sexualization of Asian women. There was also evidence of emasculated API men onscreen, with very few roles during the period studied featuring male API characters having romantic relationships and instances where API characters were sexually demeaned for one. comic effect using stereotypes.
To increase the representation of the API in Hollywood films and address the issues highlighted by their report, the authors made eight recommendations, including: casting more API talent; move towards more authentic representations of API characters; hire more API storytellers; work with more vendors and API vendors; supporting nonprofits, film schools and the API talent pipeline; ensure a wider distribution of films by API creatives; raise the voice of API critics, journalists and publicists; and for A-listers to avoid the performative alliance with an action that is more meaningful and substantial.
The full report and its recommendations can be viewed here.