John Locher / AP
Signs that it’s officially Hispanic Heritage Month are all around us, whether it’s a Google Doodle or an annual film festival.
But the national focus on Latinos and Hispanics this time of year belies a lingering reality, according to a new report: Latin Americans and Hispanics are still under-represented and poorly represented in popular movies.
Released on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month (which ends in mid-October), USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report interviewed key Hispanic and Latino actors and characters with speaking parts in 1 300 highest grossing films from 2007 to 2019. The report’s authors also assessed the number of Hispanic and Latino directors, casting directors, and producers.
“As companies celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through online publications, events and employee resource groups,” said Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith, “the evidence is clear that the concern for inclusion occurs when it is practical or expected and not when it comes to giving the green light to films by, for and about the Hispanic / Latino community. “
Hispanics and Latinos make up almost 1 in 5 of the American population. In Hollywood County, more than half of Angelenos are Hispanic and Latino.
They also go to the movies more than any other group. Hispanics and Latin Americans have the highest per capita theater attendance of any ethnic group in the country, according to a 2019 report from the Motion Picture Association of America.
Here are some of the main findings of the Annenberg report.
Hispanics / Latinos are rarely chosen in a lead role
Only 7% of major movies in 2019 featured a Hispanic or Latino lead actor. When it comes to spoken or named roles, about 6% of the characters played that year were Hispanic or Latino – not even a complete percentage increase in portrayal from the total 13 years of blockbuster movies.
A push for diversity in Hollywood hasn’t moved Latinos and Hispanics forward
Actors of color have landed more prominent roles in the years since backlash campaigns to boost diversity in Hollywood, like #OscarsSoWhite. Yet in 2019, USC Annenberg found that Hispanics and Latinos followed all ethnicities when it came to screen time.
Hispanic and Latino characters continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes
When seen on screen, Hispanics and Latinos are often cataloged in roles involving crime, poverty or immigration, according to the USC report. More than a third of the main Hispanic and Latino actors in 2019’s biggest movies have been described as criminals.