Representation is important for many reasons. Seeing your beliefs, culture, and traditions embraced on the big screen or TV is empowering and reaffirming that your story matters.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in representation for Black and nonbinary actors in TV and film. According to a study done by Variety Business Intelligence (VBI), Black talent has the highest increased rate of representation in TV and film across racial and ethnic lines. Within the gender and LGBTQ breakdowns, nonbinary talent logged the biggest increase in representation.
This study compared the breakdowns of series regulars in TV series and the main-title cast members for movies released during the 18 months leading up to the pandemic (Oct. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020) and the 18 months that followed (Apr. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021).
'In the Heights' Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
While the study found significant increases in diversity and representation in film and TV, the results were unevenly spread. Latin/Hispanic actors saw the biggest gain in representation in film, partially due to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights , but the representation of Latin/Hispanic actors in TV fell from 37.1% to 33%.
Actors of Middle Eastern/North African descent saw their representation decline from series regulars from 9.3% to 8%, as well as a decline in roles in film by 0.2%.
The “Entertainment Diversity Progress Report” is part of a larger initiative on the behalf of VBI to create unbiased databases to better track diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Other highlights from the study found that 70.5% of series released during the pandemic period had a Black series regular. The number of films released during the pandemic also had an increase in Black talent, raising the percentage from 56.1% to 58.7%.
Women made up 42.7% of film roles during the pandemic (up from 41.6%) and female representation in TV rose from 44.5% to 46.6%.
Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Films and TV episodes with LGBTQ+ actors saw a drop in their representation from 12.9% to 10.7% in film and 21.8% to 19.3% in TV during the pandemic. Asian representation in film almost doubled across main title roles, representing 32.5% of all movies released during the pandemic. In TV, 35.9% of seasons released during the pandemic had at least one Asian actor as a series regular, improving Asain representation from 33.4%.
The number of films released with Indigenous main title cast also doubled during the pandemic to 10.3% while the number of Indigenous series regulars increased by one role, bringing their representation to 1.8% of the series regular roles during the pandemic.
The VBI’s study showcases the shortcomings and celebrations of representation in the entertainment world. As we continue to write characters , it is important to think of representation and inclusivity within our worlds and how to celebrate the differences among those characters. Entertainment is a world that should celebrate individuals across all genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and races.
Let us know in the comments your thoughts on the VBI study!