Latino Women in Most Hyper-Sexualized Roles

The Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism report, "Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films" by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti and Dr. Katherine Pieper, examines race/ethnicity on screen and behind the camera across 500 popular films theatrically released in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. In terms of on screen depictions, they evaluate every independent speaking character. Over 20,000 speaking characters are coded for apparent race/ ethnicity as well as demographic traits and hypersexuality indicators.

Key Findings

Prevalence. Across 100 top-grossing films of2012, only 4.2% are Hispanic, 10.8% of speaking characters are Black, , 5% are Asian, and 3.6% are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%). These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the 5-year sample.

The percentages of female speaking characters who are Hispanic (33.9%), Black (34.6%), and Asian (34.8%) are greater than the percentages of White females (28.8%) and females from other ethuicities (16.1%). Although we see more women from certain racial/ethnic categories, compared to their male counterparts, females in every group are still under represented.

Portrayal. Hispanic females (41.1%, 39.3%) are more likely to be depicted in sexy attire and partially naked than Black (31.8%, 30.5%) or White females (32.8%, 32.3%). Asian females (15.7%, 15.7%) are far less likely to be sexualized. Domestic roles did not vary for females by race/ethnicity, but differences emerged for males. Hispanic males are more likely to be depicted as fathers and relational partners than males in all other racial/ethnic groups. Black males, on the other hand, are the least likely to be depicted in these roles.

The report also looks in more detail on the role of Black directors and prevalence of Black actors.

The report concluded that despite the Civil Rights movement and programs to increase diversity on screen and behind the scenes in Hollywood, the representation of people of color has not changed over the 5 years investigated. Different strategies for change are needed to alter the representational stalemate that is depicted in top-grossing films.

For a copy of the full report, click here.

This piece was first published by the National Institute for Latino Policy