Muslim and Latino communities are underrepresented in Hollywood


Camila Mendes is the lead in the new movie 'Do Revenge'. Photo: AP

Latino characters aren't very commonplace on US television. According to research from the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) and reported on by Axios, just 3.1% of the lead actors in television series are from the Latino community.

For co-lead/ensemble actors, the percentage drops to 2.1%, and falls even lower for showrunners, at just 1.5%, and directors, at 1.3%. However, Latinos represent nearly one fifth of the US population.

In the movie world, the results are better, although still not satisfactory. The Latinos In Media Report indicates Latinos represent just 5.2% of lead actors in film, 5.1% of co-lead/ensemble actors, 3.5% of screenwriters and 2.6% of directors.

The study looked at new and old shows that aired between January 1 and August 31, 2022, in prime-time slots (8 to 10 pm) on both traditional broadcast television channels, and on cable and streaming.

Red card for cable

It is on cable channels that Latino actors are the least numerous in shows. The findings are stark: since the beginning of the year, not a single series, out of the 24 channels analysed, has had a Latino showrunner. Discovery, HGTV, TLC and HBO - all owned by Warner Bros Discovery - have no Latino lead actors across the 100 or so prime-time shows that these channels air. Among the 124 Netflix series, two lead roles are held by Latino actors. Apple counts only one Latino lead among its 44 shows.

This observation reflects a lack of progress, and even a decline in Latino representation over the last five years, especially in the director category. In 2020, 3.7% of TV show directors were Latino, compared to 3.5% in 2018 and 1.3% in 2022.

How does this compare to other communities?

How can this lack of diversity be explained at a time when the issue is fueling debate within the worlds of the big and small screen?

Indeed, other communities fare more favourably. Black people, for example, represent 16.12% of those in streaming shows compared to 13.6% of the US population.

Latinos, meanwhile, represent 9.29% of those in streaming shows, compared to 19% of the US population. Asian Americans represent 11.18% of those in streaming shows, and 6.1% of the US population.

Latinos aren't the only community to be underrepresented on the big and small screen.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke out about the lack of Muslim actors on screen. The Pakistani education activist took advantage of the "Power Of Women" event, organised by Variety, to speak out about this lack of diversity:

"I learned that Asian people like me make up less than 4% of leads in Hollywood films. Muslims are 25% of the population, but only 1% of characters in popular TV series," Yousafzai said at the Power Of Women dinner, Variety reports. – AFP Relaxnews

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