Though Latino viewers make up a substantial portion of box office sales, their representation in central Hollywood roles is almost invisible in comparison.
A recent study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism revealed that although Hispanic customers make up a quarter of all movie ticket purchasers in the United States, they are continually the most underrepresented group on the big screen.
A mere 4.9 percent of characters with speaking roles in 2013 were Hispanic, the study said, compared to nearly 75 percent of all speaking roles given to white actors. Marc Choueiti, who helped to author the study, said there is a concerning gap between the reality of U.S. demographics and the white-washed movies churned out by Hollywood.
“Hispanics and Latinos are one of the fastest-growing groups in the U.S.,” Choueiti said. “If popular films were the only way to gauge diversity, viewers would be completely unaware of this. Individuals from this group are almost invisible on screen.”
Costa Rican actors in particular have had a difficult time climbing up the show-business ladder. Two of the biggest names in acting for Costa Rica are Harry Shrum Jr. and Giannia Facio, who has minor roles in movies produced by her longtime partner Ridley Scott. In the Academy Award-winning film “Gladiator,” for instance, Ms. Facio played the wife of Maximus in a non-speaking role.
The study further concludes that Hispanic females were the most common group of women to be shown as naked or partially naked in 2013. Though researchers said there was no discernible variation in parental or relationship status based on ethnicity, the hyper-sexualized take on Latina actresses in Hollywood was found by measuring which female characters exposed skin in the high upper thigh or mid chest regions.
In analyzing the data, researchers looked at the 100 top-grossing films of 2013. They compared those to numbers from each of the five years prior dating back to 2007. With speaking roles measured from 600 of the most popular movies, numbers showed that no strides have been made since 2007 to include more minority voices in film, they said.
“No meaningful change has been observed in the frequency of any racial/ethnic group on screen in popular films between 2007 and 2013,” the study reports.
As well as Latino characters, the study also stated that black speaking roles remained severely limited despite a perceived boost.
Popular movies like “12 Years a Slave,” “42” and “The Butler” provided audiences with black protagonists and key characters this past year, and director Steven McQueen became the first black director to win an Oscar for best picture. Despite the success of these big-hit films centered on African-American characters and themes, the study’s authors said overall speaking roles for black characters did not significantly exceed those of years past.