From Where We Are

TV diversity remains lacking in off-camera roles

A UCLA study confirms that America’s entertainment industry trudges behind the U.S. 2020 census. Despite the increased diversity in the nation, most of Hollywood’s directors and writers remain white.

15% of show creators in digital scripted TV are people of color. But the Hollywood Diversity 2021 report done by UCLA looks at the work needed in the entertainment industry.

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Diversity has been a topic of conversation in the entertainment industry for decades. Last week, UCLA released it’s eighth annual Hollywood Diversity report which showed an increase in on-camera jobs for people of color, however TV writers, directors and other off-camera staff remain largely white and male.

As America’s minority population steadily increases, co-author of the study Darnell Hunt says it is essential that the entertainment industry reflects this change to avoid stereotyping.

“The people that pitch the ideas for those shows have not been very diverse. Even when we are telling stories that include people of color or revolve around things that they’ve been involved in their lives, often the authenticity is not quite there because the people that came up with the idea haven’t had first hand experience with those communities with those people…”

And this isn’t just limited to T.V. According to Matt Oflas, co-president of the USC Asian Pacific Cinema Association, the 2020 live action Mulan film also sparked controversy.

“I think that that right there is a prime example of this story that on the surface seems very diverse, they have an asian cast, and then you look a little deeper and a lot of the major creatives behind the surface were white.”

Award-winning journalist and associate professor at USC Annenberg Miki Turner agrees that the trend of sticking white creators behind the scenes adds another barrier of unrelatability for viewers of color.

“In terms of the diversity, we still have a way to go in terms of showing people’s color in their full tapestries. Some of the content still feels stereotypical to me, and, you know, I’ve been watching TV since the 60s so I’ve seen what the landscape could be and I’ve seen what the landscape often is when it comes to portraying racial minorities.”

One of her favorite shows that she feels is pushing back against this trend is Insecure, an HBO series created by LA-native Issa Rae.

“A lot of people are going to watch a show like Insecure that really highlighted a community or communities in Los Angeles. One of the reasons why I was so connected to that show is because a lot of the places they shot for locations are places I go. "

The work that Hunt and his colleagues have done confirms these very sentiments. This year’s report proves that shows created by and featuring minorities are important to today’s audience.

“One of the things that we found in our report over the years is that audiences tend to gravitate towards shows where not only the onscreen presence is diverse, but also when the writers room is diverse.”