The amount of Latino talent and executives in the entertainment and media industries is ridiculous low despite the growth of the Hispanic population, according to a new study “The Latino Media Gap: The state of Latinos in U.S. Media”.
One of the most comprehensive studies of this issue to date, The Latino Media Gap also found a narrower range of Latino roles and fewer Latino lead actors today, as compared to 70 years ago, and persistently low levels of Latino participation in mainstream English-language media.
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“The success of a few Latino stars has created a widespread perception that media diversity in the U.S. is significantly improving,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the study’s lead researcher. “But our findings indicate that, in some ways, it is getting worse.”
The study was released by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and created in collaboration with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and the National Latino Arts, Education and Media Institute (NLAEMI).
Although the Latino population in the U.S. grew more than 43 percent between 2000 and 2013, to 17 percent of the total U.S. population, participation behind or in front of the camera stayed stagnant or grew only slightly, often proportionally declining. Even when Latinos are visible, they tend to be portrayed through centuries-old stereotypes, either hypersexualized, as comic relief, and/or cheap labor.
“Latinos are constantly portrayed with a broad brush—and the picture displayed is extremely limited,” said actor Esai Morales, NHFA co-founder and co-star on CBS’s Criminal Minds. “I call it the four H’s of Hollywood—Latinos are either cast as overly hormonal, overly hysterical, overly hostile or overly humble. Far too often, we’re supposed to be the spice on the side, rather than a central figure, a hero or leader. And that needs to change.”
According the Columbia University these are the highlights of the report:
- Latino men have disappeared as leading actors; Latina actors have increased their presence slightly. Until the 1990s, there were far more Latino male than female leads in TV shows and films. This is no longer the case. In the 2010-2013 period, Latino men did not play any leading roles in the top ten films. Latinas, however, are slightly more present relative to all Latinos as both supporting and lead actresses.
- Stereotypes restrict opportunities and perceptions. Latinos continue to be represented overwhelmingly in entertainment as criminals and cheap labor. In addition, the range of roles available to Latinos is narrower now than those available in earlier decades: nearly 50 percent of contemporary Latino roles on top 10 television shows are either criminals or law enforcers.
- The Latino presence in TV programming and movies is extremely limited. In the 1950s, Latinos were 2.8 percent of the U.S. population; they were also 1.3 percent of lead film actor appearances and nearly 3.9 percent of lead TV actor appearances. Today, despite comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population, there are no lead Latino actors among the top 10 movies and network TV shows.
- News is worse than entertainment. Stories about Latinos comprise less than 1 percent of top news media coverage, and the majority of these stories cover Latinos who are criminals or undocumented workers. Latino participation as anchors and news producers is also extraordinarily low: there are no Latino anchors or executive producers in any of the nation’s top news programs. Only 1.8 percent of news producers are Latinos.
- Latinos are missing behind the scenes. Most diversity strategies employed over the last two decades have been relatively ineffective; diversity has not significantly increased at studios, networks and public television, including behind the camera and in leadership positions. From 2010-2013, Latinos made up 4.1 percent of TV directors, 1.2 percent of producers, and 1.9 percent of writers. In movies, Latinos accounted for 2.3 percent of movie directors, just over 2 percent of producers, and 6 percent of writers. No Latinos currently serve as CEOs, presidents or owners of a major English-language network or studio.