The Hollywood film industry has time and again been criticized for its lack of diversity, inevitably depriving several talented actors from making a mark in the entertainment circuit, on grounds of pure discrimination, be it race, ethnicity or colour. Findings from a recent study conducted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative with sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen shed light on the same. The academic research revealed Hollywood’s highest-grossing films have seldom featured Asians or Pacific Islanders in pivotal roles on the big screen, displaying “an epidemic of invisibility” for Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) in films released from 2007 to 2019, reported Reuters.
Moreover, the study cited under-representation and negative portrayal of Asians in films to have paved the way for incidents of violence and harassment against Asians in the United States. About 7.1% of the US population identifies as Asian or Pacific Islander, revealed the report. In the 1,300 top-grossing films during the study period, 3.4% of leads or co-leads were played by API actors, the researchers noted.
It added that out of 44 films with API actors in leading roles, 14 of them featured actor Dwayne Johnson, whose mother hails from the Pacific island of American Samoa. Six movies featured a female API character as the protagonist. The research also discovered under-representation of women, people of colour and LGBTQ characters in movies and on TV.
The researches explained that it was not just that actors belonging to API backgrounds were missing from films, but they were also cast in negative roles. Sixty-seven percent of API characters were shown as “the perpetual foreigner” with a non-American accent, were hyper-sexualised, were victims of racial slurs or fell into another stereotype, the researchers said. “Mass media is one factor that can contribute to aggression towards this community,” said USC professor Stacy L Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. “When portrayals erase, dehumanise, or otherwise demean the API community, the consequences can be dire. Without intention and intervention, the trends we observed will continue,” Smith concluded.