I think I can speak for the majority of the Black community when I say that we are tired of corporate media controlling our narratives. This past Wednesday, the Hollywood Bureau of the NAACP released a report which concludes that the lack of Black Hollywood executives has led to the production of shows and movies that are harmful to Black communities.
“Media content informs and misinforms opinions about Black people, ultimately influencing perceptions and behaviors, followed by laws and policies that govern and define social circumstances with steep psycho-emotional consequences,” the report reads. “The most damaging consequence of the industry’s faulty approximation of genuine Black experiences is the absorption and adoption of those characterizations as misshapen forms of self-identity, worthy of emulation.”
The report titled, “The Black Executive: A Partial Solution to the Psycho-Social Consequences of Media Distortion,” was commissioned by the NAACP Hollywood Bureau in collaboration with Dr. Darnell Hunt, Dean of Social Sciences at UCLA, and MEE (Motivational Educational Entertainment) Productions.
Hunt found that in the year 2020, 91% of film studio CEOs were white and 82% were male; that 93% of studio senior management teams were white and 80% were male; and that 86% of studio unit heads were white and 59% male.
The study also reports that “no Black CEOs or members of the senior management team at the major studios in early 2020, and only 3.9% of major studio unit heads were Black.”
One of the most noteworthy points made within the report is that Black youth are of course among the most affected. “Black youth culture has been co-opted by corporate America to sell products and services, while also over-indexing in the consumption of TV shows, movies and other media content,” The report continues. “This is a key profit reservoir for Hollywood, despite African Americans having little control of the content that broadly defines them.”
Additionally, Hunt surveyed 55 Black Hollywood executives about the process a project undergoes in order to get “greenlighted”, meaning approved for production and fully funded.
The report found that “while the overwhelming majority of survey respondents have been in the entertainment industry for more than 10 years, most of them had been in their current senior-level positions for less than two years, coinciding with the global response to the heinous murder of George Floyd.” So even though the study proves that diversifying the representation of Black executives in these Hollywood executive suites can help move the needle, seniority in the position weighs most heavily when it comes to decision making capability, so the new hires make little to no difference at all.
Here’s hoping that in the future, we don’t just move the needle, we break the meter.