The investigation—co-authored by Ariana Case, Zoily Mercado, and Karla Hernandez —assessed leading and co-leading Hispanic and Latino actors and all speaking characters across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019, as well as their presence working behind the camera as directors, producers, and casting directors.
It’s important to note: Hispanics/Latinos spend $1.7 trillion as consumers. They account for 25 percent of movie tickets sold.
“Whether in leading roles or across all speaking characters, the absence of Hispanic and Latino actors and characters is noticeable. This community represents nearly 20% of the U.S. population and nearly half of Los Angeles residents and yet remains almost invisible on screen,” Case said in a statement.
To preface the findings, the words Hispanic and Latino are not interchangeable. Hispanic refers to people who are descended from Spanish-speaking countries and speak Spanish—regardless of race. Latinos hail from Latin American countries; specifically Central and South America, and the Caribbean—regardless of race or language. Although there will be people who can be both Latino and Hispanic, not everyone is considered both. Hispanic includes countries like Spain but excludes Brazil; whereas Latino includes the latter and excludes the former.
Latinx is a term used to refer to Latinos born in the United States, not of Spanish origin.
A breakdown of the investigation can be found below.
Acting Roles in 2019:
The report reveals 7 percent of Hispanic/Latino actors fill leading roles, only a slight increase from the 3.5 percent across the 13-year time frame.
However, more than half of leading or co-leading actors were girls and women across the 1,300 movies examined, including 6 of the 7 actors. Yet, they still represent only 1.9 percent of all across 1,300 films.
There’s also an age-related barrier as only one percent of the study group featured a Hispanic/Latino in a leading or co-leading role aged 45 or older—including none in 2019. Only three of these roles were held by a woman 45 or older; two were Jennifer Lopez, the other was Cameron Diaz.
On the Latinx front, five percent of leads and co-leads were Latinx, as were 2.2 percent of all protagonists. Moreover, only 6 Afro-Latinos worked across the 13-year time frame; 3 held lead/co-lead roles.
Only 5.9 percent of speaking or named characters were Latino/Hispanic of any race—no change from year to year in prevalence. Overall, only 5 percent of all 51,158 characters identified across the full 1,300 film sample were Hispanic/Latino.
A total of 567 movies out of 1,300 were missing Hispanic/Latinos, meaning 43.6 percent of the most popular films of the last 13 years didn’t feature even one Hispanic/Latino character.
The findings were even more dismal for LGBTQ and characters with disabilities, who are almost completely absent in films. In 2019, 98 out of 100 films fully omitted LGBTQ characters, and 95 were missing characters with disabilities. Only one film depicted a Hispanic/Latino character who was both gay and had a disability.
Behind The Camera:
There was no big difference in directors representing the Latino/Hispanic community (4.5 percent in 2019) from prior years, but only 3 Hispanic/Latino women (Patricia Riggen, Melina Matsoukas, and Roxann Dawson) worked as directors across 13 years.
There were 35 individual Hispanic/Latino directors across 13 years: a total of 34.3 percent were U.S.-born, while 65.7 percent were international. Only 2 directors were Afro-Latino: Melina Matsoukas and Steven Caple Jr.
On the producing side, only 3 percent were Hispanic/Latino and most were men. Only 21.9 percent of producers were women, and overall, represented less than 1 percent of all producers across 1,300 top movies.
Hispanic/Latino casting directors only account for 3.3 percent of these roles in 13 years.
The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative comes from Dr. Stacy L. Smith in partnership with UnbeliEVAble Entertainment and Wise Entertainment.
“Representation on screen matters for our community – it shapes not just how others see us, but also how we see ourselves. It’s imperative that our media includes narratives that uplift Latino and Hispanic voices. We need to see ourselves in storytelling and we need the world to see the joy, the power, and the heart of our community in ways that are still all too rare. Media can make a difference in our world and we need to see real change,” said Eva Longoria, president and CEO of UnbeliEVAble Entertainment.