- A new report found that less than 6% of characters featured in films in 2019 were Latino.
- Even when Latinos are featured in films, these portrayals are often riddled with stereotypes.
- The report offered solutions from raising funding for Latino art to hiring talent for ad campaigns.
Hispanics and Latinos continue to “face an epidemic of invisibility” in film, according to a new report released Wednesday by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
The report, published in conjunction with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, provides an update to its 2019 report titled “Inequality in 1,300 Popular Films.”
Data showed that less than 6% of characters featured in films released in 2019 were Hispanic or Latino.
Representation is equally dismal behind the camera.
Of the 1,300 top-grossing films released from 2007-2019, there were only 12 individual Latinx directors.
Two of these directors, Melina Matsoukas and Steven Caple Jr., are Afro-Latino.
“There’s always a lot of excuses about the talent pipeline,” Katherine Pieper, one of the authors of the study, told Insider.
“But it’s about decision-making and who’s being hired to work behind and in-front of the camera,” she added.
USC Annenberg Equality Initiative’s 2019 report also found that Hispanics and Latinos have been virtually erased from the film industry, which is why Ariana Case, a lead author of the most recent report, didn’t find these results surprising.
“We found a lot of numbers didn’t change,” Case told Insider. “We saw more of the same patterns that continue to erase Hispanic and Latino communities.”
More than 60 million Hispanics, or around 18% of the country’s population live in the US. Los Angeles, where the film industry is predominantly based, is nearly half Latino, per US Census Data.
Latinos are also regular moviegovers, buying 25% of all movie tickets, according to the report.
Despite growing Latino communities and their consumer power, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that Latino audiences are not prioritized by studios.
Nearly 80% of the 50 US states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have a higher percentage of Latinos than Hollywood films, states the report.
The lack of Latino representation in Hollywood is pervasive and affects all aspects of filmmaking, the report states, finding that around 3% of casting directors and 3% of producers are Latino.
Case told Insider that even when Latinos are featured in films, these portrayals are often riddled with offensive and harmful stereotypes.
“We’re not seeing this multicultural, accurate portrayal of these communities,” she said.
According to the study, nearly 40% of the top-billed Hispanic and Latino characters in 2019 films were portrayed as criminals, while more than 13% of the top-billed Hispanic and Latino characters in these films were depicted as lower class or impoverished.
Beyond being stereotypical, these roles tend to lack intersectionality.
There wasn’t a single LGBTQ+ identifying Latino character in the 2019 films analyzed, despite the fact that Latino millennials are the least likely members of their age group to identify as heterosexual, per a 2018 University of Chicago study.
And only one Latino lead or co-lead in 2019 films had a disability, even though 1 in 6 Hispanics do, according to the CDC.
Because of the lack of the Latino representation in film, there’s pressure for the projects showcasing Latino characters to be the one, perfect film for the whole of the community, said Pieper.
“It’s really hard to find a movies that check all the boxes,” Pieper said. “So much then rests on these movies to carry the burden and the weight of representation.”
“I think the point is that we need more films,” Pieper added. “We need a plurality of representation so that not so much hinges on one or a few films to represent millions of people.”
The report calls on those working in the film industry to implement several “strategic solutions for change” to address the dearth of Latinos in movies.
For talent agencies and casting directors, it recommends actively recruiting Latino talent. It also instructs film festivals to support Latino and Hispanic filmmakers.
Philanthropists, corporations, and elected officials can also play an important role in bolstering Latino representation, per the report.
From raising funding for Latino art and education to hiring talent for ad campaigns to creating legislation that provides tax incentives for projects with Hispanic and Latino talent, this issue can be attacked from multiple angles.