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Hollywood's Diversity Problem Predictably Blamed On The Recession

Illustration for article titled Hollywoods Diversity Problem Predictably Blamed On The Recession

Overall employment and earnings in Hollywood took a hit along with the general economy, but not everyone felt the sting equally. The latest Writers' Guild report indicates that in many instances, women and minority TV and film writers lost ground in comparison to white males.

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Per the executive summary, "As the nation grappled with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the few hopeful signs for women and minority writers discussed in the previous report either disappeared or seemed considerably less encouraging by 2009." The previous report, released in 2009, looked at a period ending in 2007. (You can read the full report here.)

Among the findings:

  • Women's share in TV and film jobs declined from 2007 to 2009; it remained stable in TV, at 28 percent, but declined in film by one point.
  • Not that TV is halcyon for women writers: "The earnings gap in television between male and female writers widened again – an 84% increase from the previous report, issued in 2009." Yes, that says 84 percent. More in the chart below.
  • The numbers are even worse when it comes to "minorities." The report says that the earnings gap is widening between "minorities" and "white males," by 10 percent between 2007 and 2009, while women writers are closing the gap (narrowing by 22 percent). As is often the case in such studies, this is confusing and assumes women have no race — do they mean white women are closing the gap, or white women and women of color? Does "minorities" include men and women or only men?
  • Specifically, the overall minority share in TV writing went from 9 percent to 10 percent. Woo! But the earnings gap in the same sector "more than doubled since the 2009 report," the widest in a decade. Boo.
  • In film, the earnings gap between men and women narrowed by 65 percent, but it was partly because median earnings for men decreased while women's earnings increased. As it turns out, the gap was way narrowed in 2001, so we're actually going backwards in this respect.
  • Similarly, "The 45.9 percent reduction in the film earnings gap – from $38,542 in 2007 to $20,864 in
    2009 -– was driven by the much larger decline in the earnings of white males over the
    period, not by any real gains by minority writers." Depressing news all round.
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Illustration for article titled Hollywoods Diversity Problem Predictably Blamed On The Recession

Here's a handy chart illustrating the median earnings gap.

As we've previously noted, Hollywood's near-singular focus on "tentpole" films has meant fewer writing jobs and ones women and people of color are seldom offered. Not to mention the fact that "diversity" or "progress" don't happen in a neat upward trajectory, and it's far too easy to lose ground if you're not vigilant and if you can blame the economy.

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DISCUSSION

Hollywood is only responding to its audience. For example, Zoe Saldana's COLOMBIANA, an action movie produced by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Liam Nessons' TAKEN) is coming out this year but you would never know that from reading this site. It's a movie being made by a high profile director/writer with a bankable reputation and starring one of the rising female stars of the past five years. But you won't know it from reading this site. Compare the coverage Angelina Jolie's SALT got or BRIDESMAIDS or just about any film that stars White women. It's probably the same reason why NIKITA, one of the breakout shows of the 2010/2011 season that showcases women in a way that has been compared to XENA and BUFFY barely gets any coverage on this site.

So yes... Hollywood is prone to racefail but when they say that "White people can't identify with non-White actors", they are not completely lying either.