How are Latinos represented on TV?
UCLA unveiled its annual report on diversity on TV series and programs produced by Hollywood.
Although it has improved, the country's racial diversity is not reflected as it should be on television. That's the conclusion reached by UCLA researchers Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon.
In the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, researchers reviewed the representation of race and gender diversity in television shows in the United States during 2019 and 2020. In this particular time period, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, viewers were more likely to watch content that had diverse casts and writers.
Darnell Hunt, co-author of the report and dean of social sciences at UCLA, noted that "the fact that shows with diverse writers rooms did well last year also illustrates that audiences are looking for authentic portrayals.”
The study, which reviewed 461 shows from 50 broadcast, cable and streaming TV providers, found a relationship between the racial composition of the shows' writers and TV ratings. For example, among households of all races in 2019-20, the programs that earned the highest ratings were those in which people of color made up between 31% and 40% of credited scripters.
At AL DÍA, we spoke with Ana-Christina Ramón, director of research and civic engagement at UCLA's Division of Social Sciences and one of the co-authors of the study, and she told us about the study's findings particularly with the Latino community. For her, in terms of representation in front of and behind the scenes, "there is not much improvement for Latinx talent."
"The numbers have been pretty stagnant overall. Any increases are incremental and very small," she said.
Viewers want to see themselves on screen not just as a reflection based on how they look, but also how they live.
People want authentic storytelling. They want MEANINGFUL representation.
Ignoring this connection leaves money on the table for studios & networks.
— Ana-Christina Ramón, PhD (@DrAnaChristina) October 29, 2021
The report found that while overall diversity increased in the last year, Latino representation did not improve. Latino actors occupied only 6.3% of roles on broadcast TV, 5.7% on cable TV and 5.5% on streaming services. Meanwhile, Latino directors were responsible for only 5.4% of television episodes, 3.5% of cable episodes and 3% of streaming episodes.
While the study does not include an analysis of content, it is clear to Ramon that more diverse audiences prefer diverse content, "including shows with diverse casts and those with diverse writers." However, "these reports are focused on employment trends in the industry and how it relates to the bottom line in terms of viewership and audience reception," she explained.
As for stereotypes, while the study does not analyze content, it is clear to Ramon that "the severe underrepresentation of Latinx writers, directors, and executives contributes to continued stereotypical or one-dimensional depiction of Latinx characters onscreen."
Now, regarding streaming TV and platforms such as Netflix or Amazon that allow watching series and movies from around the world, the issue of diversity takes on a new nuance. In this sense, for researchers, showing the diversity of everyone is important.
"However, it is not enough to have international stories about people of color. Viewers should have the opportunity to view content about people of color living in the United States," concluded Ramon.
- The number of roles for women in 2019-20 was nearly equal to that of men across all three platform types. Women accounted for 46.3% of the total cast in scripted broadcast programs, 45.3% in cable and 46.9% in streaming.
- Trans and non-binary actors were virtually absent across all platforms.
- Out of a total of 2,932 credited actors, only 13 were Native American, including only three Native American women.
- People of color directed 25.8% of aired episodes, 27.2% of cable episodes and 21.4% of streaming episodes, compared to 24.3% and, 22.9% and 18.2% in the 2018-19 season.
- Women directed 30.6% of aired episodes, 31.3% of cable episodes and 33.4% of streaming episodes, up from 29.3%, 29.7% and, 29.1% in the previous season.