More Diversity in Hollywood Movies & Television Benefits Everyone

thekjmachine April 25, 2021

When it comes to Hollywood diversity, it goes without saying there’s a long way to go. Still, each year, according to an ongoing study by UCLA, Hollywood makes strides to offer more inclusivity in programming. Diversity benefits minorities, but there’s more to the picture. Diversity benefits non-minorities, too. This article looks at the effects of on-screen representation, how it touches children’s lives, and where the industry has seen changes.

According to The Financial Express, as listed in From ‘Hamilton’ to ‘Promising Young Woman’: Diversity rules Golden Globe nominations, this was an essential year for inclusivity in television, streaming media, and film. The article points out that the Golden Globes in 2021 showed a strong line of diverse movies and television shows nominated for awards. Three examples were Mank, Hamilton, and The Prom.

When it comes to Hollywood diversity, it begs to question, why is it so crucial in today’s society?

In an interview with Dr. Muhammad Waleed Khan, who works at the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Pakistan and has spent time working in the psychiatric ward, he discusses how movies and TV people watch impact their thoughts. He points out that the average child spends close to 14 hours a week watching television, then goes on to say, “Any show or movie a child watches has a profound impact on their nutrition, behavior, and learning. And this is what they carry into adulthood with themselves.”

Dr. Tehreem Kundi, also of the Khyber Teaching Hospital, adds that while the shows we watch have a lasting imprint on us, it’s especially true of children in their younger years – whereas adults are less impacted. 

Dr. Kundi goes on to say, “The film industry plays an important role in introducing different customs and traditions from different parts of the world to us. Having people with different backgrounds and belonging to different races in this industry proves to be very useful. Such diversity, when on set and behind-the-scenes, helps introduce different people to one another. When on-screen, it helps the audience know and learn about all this diversity and become more accepting of it.”

When asked how diversity in Hollywood can benefit non-minorities in the general public, she said, “Diversity generally welcomes everyone with open arms. With this fact known, people easily become influenced by what they see. Having more diversity in our films and movies can give a sense of broad-mindedness to people around us.”

Dr. Muhammad Waleen Khan answers how people mostly learn or become aware of different communities, environments, or someone different from them. He said, “Cultural awareness and diversity are pivotal in today’s society. It benefits us all in terms of empathy, open-mindedness and makes us feel safe and confident. Most people become aware of differences in cultures, usually from a very young age. Their schooling and how parents and guardians bring them up will determine whether they’ll have this sense in them. Additionally, movies and TV shows also enlighten people’s minds on this matter—by seeing actors belonging to different cultural backgrounds and playing different roles.”

He firmly believes that the things one watches have a strong influence on our thinking. Whether used as an emotional outlet, inspiration, or insight, media and entertainment profoundly affect us. He goes on to say, “Stories affect all areas of life in terms of how people view themselves, how they live their lives, and how they see others.”

An important fact to point out is that diversity can help non-minorities as much as minorities. Dr. Muhammad Waleen Khan answers how diversity benefits non-minorities. He says, “…telling stories with utmost authenticity and getting rid of wrongfully portrayed stereotypes about minorities will benefit people in terms of being more open-minded and will positively expand their cultural views. More authentic portrayals will bring harmony, respect, better understanding, and empathy among people irrespective of race and gender.”

With that in mind, developing healthy attitudes toward people different from oneself can be vital to growth and society.

This podcast interview features Web, a Los Angeles working actress, and discusses on-screen TV and movie representation.

Is Hollywood Diversity about More than Money?

In a 2020 Targeted News Service piece titled Lack of Diversity Means Box-Office Blues for Hollywood Films, UCLA Study Shows, it reports with a lack of diversity in films, there’s money left on the table as per a UCLA report. The article mentions that in casting a movie and behind the scenes, when there are no diverse voices, things often sound the same, and those less heard from individuals can bring a fresh perspective and more authenticity. Sure, the advantages of Hollywood diversity would mean more profit, but sometimes it’s not enough for people to open their eyes.

While Hollywood is slow to change, today’s environment is the perfect opportunity to embrace better inclusivity and diverse voices front and center finally.

And yes, money is essential, but not on the same level as social, civil, and educational benefits from diversity. The effects of on-screen representation go far and beyond what may be perceived.  

When it comes to educational benefits and civil goals, an article from The Huffington Post, Memo to Department of Education: Diverse Classrooms Create a Better America, looked at a study focused on classroom integration. Diversity in the classroom had a profound effect on those involved and saw inclusivity to help society overall based on educational and civic goals. Being integrated into classrooms narrowed the learning and achievement gap. Those left segregated and never given the opportunity for integration didn’t have the same narrowed achievement gap. Given a chance, people thrive – students thrive, which helps society in general. 

But, it’s not just schools that benefit from diversity and an inclusive environment. In 2005, HRMagazine wrote a report titled Workplace diversity: leveraging the power of difference for competitive advantage. The report found that workplace diversity helped give companies a competitive advantage and contributed to a better work environment overall—with employees showing more empathy, respect, and inclusion. It also helps in gaining the attention of worldwide business leaders.

When it comes to Hollywood diversity, it would appear that online streaming networks are becoming huge players in the field of inclusivity. Today, media spans in multiple directions. Recently PR Newswire reported Streaming Platforms Leading The Way In On-screen Diverse Representation; Diversity at an all-time high due to the growing television landscape, but notable disparities persist. The article notes there are more available options offering diversity today than ever before. 

A study showed that over 92% of the most-watched shows (Top 300) offered a more diverse cast of players, including minorities (POC), LGBTQ+, and women. Better representation benefits everybody.

This graph provides the top three websites that rate movies and scripted tv based on inclusivity in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Here are the ratings for the 2021 Academy Award for Best Picture Nominees from Mediaversity, Cherry Picks, and Incluvie.

UCLA by Jessica Wolf titled Diversity improves among TV actors, but executives still overwhelmingly white and male, notes that while strides made, some areas are noticeably lacking. More actors of color and minorities are on-screen, while executive and higher-up positions are still predominantly white males. It spoke of gains made in the different television fields of employment, but not in the numbers representing society. 

On Deadline, Dino-Ray Ramos looks at a study that examines the range of roles of over 50,000 characters based on the top 1,200 movies from the years 2007-2018. The study found that representation ranged at about 36% come 2018. The prior year, it had only been 29%.

Rawan Elbaba’s article on PBS looks at why it matters to have diversity in pop culture, television, and film. She speaks of teens who see themselves through these characters and about recognizing that this inclusion helps them feel as if they have a place in the world. The article states that the Census Bureau registers 40% of the population as non-white, yet only gave 2 out of 10 lead roles to minorities. Not seeing yourself represented was one issue one of the teens spoke about in the article, and that it can have an impact on their self-esteem. Are they left to wonder, why doesn’t anybody look like me? 

Some benefits tap into society when it comes to Hollywood diversity, whether consciously making a difference or subconsciously as children absorb the programming they see. Inclusivity is a way to benefit minorities, non-minorities and offer us the opportunity to hear and see authentic voices.

In short, everyone loves Hollywood diversity because everyone wins.

Join the discussion.