Things need to change. And they need to change now.
USA Today reported on a national survey that consisted of 1,388 Americans ages 18-54 who describe themselves as "frequently engaging with TV, movies, social media or video games." When all the results were tallied, 4 in 5 Black Americans (2 out of 3 total surveyed) said it’s obvious when characters of color and their stories aren’t written by people of color.
The study continued that while 1 in 3 of those surveyed believe there have been improvements in the last decade, 7 in 10 stated that the entertainment industry needs to improve its representation.
"The high level of consumer interest in diverse stories and voices surfaced very strongly in this research," said Cindi Smith, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion practice for the National Research Group, in a statement included with the report.
The report ended with this damning sentence: "The entire media ecosystem needs to step up its representation game."
The #RepresentationMatters report, by the National Research Group, showed that 2 in 3 Black Americans say they don’t see themselves or their culture represented in movies or television, with 86% of Black Americans wanting to see more of these representative stories on screens.
Those are numbers that speak to a desperate need for Hollywood to do better, not just in the Academy Requirement, but in the focus on what stories we decide to tell.
The study found that 91% of the Americans surveyed believe that media has the power to influence society.
So it's not like Hollywood doesn't know they have the power. The deeper you get, the bleaker the numbers get. 75%, or 3 in 4 of all people surveyed (and 87% of Black Americans surveyed), believe the way Black Americans are portrayed in the media influences perceptions of them in the real world.
Storytellers have a responsibility to create characters and portrayals that bring positivity. Otherwise, we suffer the consequences of a society where our actions actually hurt large groups of people.
In fact, 83% of Black Americans (and 66% of the total surveyed) believe that the media perpetuates negative stereotypes of Black people.
Knowing these numbers should haunt those of us creating today, but it should also make us feel empowered. We can actually change the world with what we're writing, directing, producing, and casting. We can be the change we want to see.
But we cannot keep pushing these things off.
Diverse hiring, developing, and creating are important. Keep this stuff in mind and do your best to make things different the next time this survey happens.