It’s a fact that Latinos are going to the movies in waves. And while the successes of bilingual films like “Instructions Not Included” and “Pulling Strings” are a sign that Hollywood is paying attention to this growing community, popular films still underrepresent minority characters and directors.
According to a study released by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Latinos are particularly underrepresented, the LA Times reports.
After evaluating the 500 top-grossing movies released in the United States between 2007 and 2012 to find patterns in how race, ethnicity and gender is depicted, researchers found that while Latinos buy an estimated of 26 percent of movie tickets, they have only 4.2 percent of speaking roles.
In comparison, the study found that 10.8 percent of speaking characters were black, 5 percent were Asian and 3.6 percent were from other ethnicities.
In 2012, the researchers found, 76.3 percent of all speaking characters were white; according to the Motion Picture Association of America, and 56 percent of ticket buyers were white.
Katherine Pieper, research scientist at Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, told the LA Times that at the core is a visibility issue.
“Who we see in film sends a powerful message about who is important and whose stories are valuable, both to international audiences and to younger viewers in our own country,” Pieper said. “Are films communicating to audiences that only certain stories are worth telling?"
The study also found Latino women are the demographic most likely to be shown nude or in sexy attire while black men are least likely to be portrayed in a committed relationship.
According to the report, the disparity in representation of diversity in popular films is not only in front of the camera.
USC researchers found a strong relationship between the race of a film’s director and the race of the cast; though they did not speculate as to the cause of the relationship.
This report is the latest series of studies USC is conducting on race, gender and ethnicity on screen. Next year, they expect to release more research focusing on independent films.