National Institute on Aging

Blacks Still Underrepresented in Top Films, According to USC Research

film-production-thumbFilms on Black history and featuring African American movie stars have become the routine in Hollywood. But research at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at University of Southern California in Los Angeles finds that Black actors continue to be poorly represented in the film industry, particularly in the blockbuster films that make the most money.

The study examined the number of speaking roles for Black actors in the 500 top-grossing movies made over a five-year period. Overall, Blacks had 10.8 percent of all speaking roles, less than the percentage of Blacks in the U.S. population. But in the top-grossing films, Blacks had only 5 percent of the speaking roles.

The study also found that of the 565 directors on the top-grossing 500 films, only 33, or 5.8 percent were Black.

Stacy Smith, the lead author of the study and an associate professor at USC, stated, “This year is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, and the census shows that the population of the United States is more diverse than ever. Our film content, however, depicts something very different. There is still a noticeable lack of diversity across the landscape of popular films.”


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