A NEW COLUMBIA STUDY FINDS MARGINAL LATINO PRESENCE ACROSS U.S. MAINSTREAM MEDIA DESPITE GROWING POPULATION
Although the Latino population in the United States is growing, a thorough review of the top movies, TV programming and news reveals that there is an abysmally low number of talent and executives in the entertainment and media industries relative to population. The new study, The Latino Media Gap: The State of Latinos in U.S. Media, was released today by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. The study was created in collaboration with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and the National Latino Arts, Education and Media Institute (NLAEMI).
One of the most comprehensive studies of this issue to date, The Latino Media Gap also found a narrower range of Latino roles and fewer Latino lead actors today, as compared to 70 years ago, and persistently low levels of Latino participation in mainstream English-language media.
“The success of a few Latino stars has created a widespread perception that media diversity in the U.S. is significantly improving,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the study’s lead researcher. “But our findings indicate that, in some ways, it is getting worse.”
Although the Latino population in the U.S. grew more than 43 percent between 2000 and 2013, to 17 percent of the total U.S. population, participation behind or in front of the camera stayed stagnant or grew only slightly, often proportionally declining. Even when Latinos are visible, they tend to be portrayed through centuries-old stereotypes, either hypersexualized, as comic relief, and/or cheap labor.
“Latinos are constantly portrayed with a broad brush—and the picture displayed is extremely limited,” said actor Esai Morales, NHFA co-founder and co-star on CBS’s Criminal Minds. “I call it the four H’s of Hollywood—Latinos are either cast as overly hormonal, overly hysterical, overly hostile or overly humble. Far too often, we’re supposed to be the spice on the side, rather than a central figure, a hero or leader. And that needs to change.”
“The scale of Latino media exclusion is stunning,” added Negrón-Muntaner. “Just imagine that any references to the entire state of California (38 million people) and Illinois (12.8 million), or the combined states of New York, Florida and Pennsylvania (49.8 million), were eliminated from our media culture. That would be deeply troubling, and so is this.”
Findings from the report include:
• Latinos are missing behind the scenes. Most diversity strategies employed over the last two decades have been relatively ineffective; diversity has not significantly increased at studios, networks and public television, including behind the camera and in leadership positions. From 2010-2013, Latinos made up 4.1 percent of TV directors, 1.2 percent of producers, and 1.9 percent of writers. In movies, Latinos accounted for 2.3 percent of movie directors, just over 2 percent of producers, and 6 percent of writers. No Latinos currently serve as CEOs, presidents or owners of a major English-language network or studio.