A new study on the evolving landscape of diversity in the U.S. film industry revealed a significant rise in Asian representation in Hollywood movies.
About the surge: The research, conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, looked into the top 100 highest-grossing domestic movies each year since 2007, covering a total of 1,600 titles and 69,858 speaking characters. The new study found that Asian representation rose 12.5%, from a mere 3.4% in 2007 to 15.9% in 2022.
Much-needed boost: This slow rise in Asian roles began even before the groundbreaking success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” which helped catalyze a new era of visibility for the Asian community in Hollywood. According to the study’s researchers, Asian directors also stood out as the only POC group that has made progress in recent years.
“Asian directors are at an all-time high in 2021 and 2022, which can account for the significant on-screen increases pertaining to Asian speaking characters,” they wrote.
Other POCs: The study also underscored that the overall depiction of nonwhite characters still falls short of reflecting the diversity seen in the real world. In 2007, 13 of the top 100 films featured leads or co-leads of color, a figure that rose to 31 in the latest analysis. Delving into the “invisibility analysis,” the study also highlighted the underrepresentation of certain groups, such as American Indian and Alaska Native female characters in the top films of 2022.
Gender disparities: The study also revealed persistent gender disparities. While 2022 saw a notable rise in lead and co-lead roles for women of color, the proportion of speaking roles attributed to girls and women across the top 100 films of the year stood at 34%. While the study acknowledged an increase in Asian directors contributing to the rise in onscreen Asian representation, it also highlighted stagnation in the hiring of female directors.
Call for action: Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, emphasized the need for continued efforts to ensure that onscreen diversity mirrors the real world.
“While it is encouraging to see changes in leading characters and for the Asian community, our data on invisibility suggests that there is still much more to be done,” she noted.