Hey, guess what, y’all? We have yet another reason to believe Hollywood is so inherently racist it even goes against its own best interests to uphold the white supremacist structure! Oh, wait—that’s all of America!
According to a recent UCLA report (via the institution’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers) titled, “Beyond Checking A Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs at the Box Office,” movie studios gain financial advantages by having diverse representation on their films while losing money if they don’t.
Deadline summarized the report, which was published on Tuesday:
The report which was published today analyzed 109 movies from 2016 to 2019 and found that movie studios can expect to lose up to $130 million per film when their offerings lack authentic diversity in their storytelling. Researchers found that large-budget films (a budget of $159 million or more) are subject to a significant cost in the opening weekend box office for a lack of diversity.
They estimate a $159 million movie will lose $32.2 million, approximately 20% of its budget, in first weekend box office, with a potential total loss of $130 million, 82% of its budget. For a $78 million budget movie will lose $13.8 million in its opening weekend for a lack of diversity, with a potential total loss of $55.2 million, 71% of its budget.
Not to be all “duhhhhhh, we knew that”—because I do know the importance of studies, but duhhhhhh, we knew that! Instead of reflecting what the world actually looks like (not to mention the declining numbers of the majority in this very country), white folks are typically overrepresented in mainstream media. We been knew that lack of diversity isn’t the move. Still, seeing the costly number in black and white may be effective.
“We asked, what is the cost of lacking diversity? Hollywood is a business, and no business wants to leave money on the table,” senior author Yalda T. Uhls, a UCLA adjunct assistant professor of psychology and founder and executive director of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers said about the report. “While increasing numerical representation behind and in front of the camera is critical, truly empowering people from diverse backgrounds is the key. For example, make sure the writers’ room is open to dissenting opinions, that a wide net is cast for hiring, and that younger, less-tenured voices are encouraged.”
So we have the data; what do we do with it going forward? UCLA has a few suggestions:
Implement explicit norms and guidelines to ensure that all viewpoints will be shared.
Hire diverse casting directors who can bring in original and dynamic talent from underrepresented groups.
Bring in expertise at the beginning of the development process, not as a band-aid later on.
Include counter-stereotypical, multidimensional characters. Avoid stereotypes by portraying characters of color with rich identities.
If there is a writers’ room, ensure that all voices, viewpoints and experiences are heard and welcome.
“In light of the national conversation around systemic racism, it is well past time for entertainment media creators to think beyond on-screen numerical representation as a marker of ‘inclusivity and diversity,’ Uhls continued. “Diverse representation in race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and their intersections, particularly behind the camera, is still lacking and slow to change. Without including a broader swath of voices on every level of a production—from set decorator or costume designer to director or actor—stories and characters will come across as stereotypical.”