A major new study released Tuesday says audiences for more diverse television shows have increased during the pandemic, but Latino actors and writers are under-represented and transgender actors are “virtually absent”.
The annual Hollywood Diversity Report produced by the University of California, Los Angeles last year found a correlation between show ratings figures and the diversity of cast and writers’ rooms, particularly in minority families. Broadcast ratings figures for white households were the highest for shows considered “relatively diverse” – 31–40 percent minority – while viewers in black households peaked for series with more than half the cast being minorities.
“The fact that diverse writers’ rooms performed well last year also shows that audiences are looking for authentic illustrations,” said Darnell Hunt, co-author and dean of social sciences at UCLA. Social media engagement with television shows was also associated with greater diversity in front of and behind the camera.
People of color made modest gains in “nearly every area” of Hollywood’s television industry. This represents a minority share of the US population, growing by about half a percent each year.
But Latino representation again failed to improve from a very low base. Latinos played 3.9 percent of lead roles on cable television – far fewer than the 18.5 percent of people who identify as Latino in the United States.
Controversy over transgender representation on television sparked by Dave Chappelle’s controversial Netflix special near, the report found almost no presence for that community. “Trans and non-binary actors were virtually absent on all platforms,” it found.
Activists protesting the stand-up special last week called on Netflix to invest in “multiple trans creators to create both scripted and unscripted programs,” as well as hiring more LGBTQ employees in leadership roles.