Inside USC Annenberg: November 21, 2013

Professor Stacy L. Smith conducted research that culminated recently in the release of a study showing the lack of diversity in Hollywood films. Smith and her team collated information from 500 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2012. The L.A. Times wrote about the release of the study, and dozens of Twitter users retweeted, replied to and favorited announcements and links to it. Smith's studies on race and gender in entertainment have been used in reports by major publications for years: A January 2013 study revealed that more women work in independent film than they do in Hollywood, and the announcement of the study was featured in more than 300 news outlets, including the L.A. Times, Truthdig and Variety. The study was announced at the Sundance Film Festival, and it was produced with the help of the Sundance Institute:

“If you look at the data, they reveal an environment in which women are creating and exhibiting films in strong numbers, especially in documentaries. Why is this? First, Sundance Institute positions women to succeed. Second, female filmmakers support each other,” Smith said.

A February 2012 study Smith conducted showed that women and girls are rarely present on screen or behind the camera in Academy Award-nominated movies. Smith and her team studied Best Picture nominees from 1977 to 2010 to analyze the presence of females in the nominated films, especially those from 2007 to 2010.

"Once again, females are grossly underrepresented and undervalued on screen and behind the camera,” Smith said. “These findings, obtained from films determined by voting members of the Academy, reveal yet another aspect of gender inequality in film."

In 2008, Smith did a study that proved that while female characters are very scarce compared to men in film and television, when they do appear they are also highly sexualized. Smith's study was part of a partnership with actress Geena Davis' group, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM).

We’re not just talking about making more movies with a female lead,” Davis said. “I’m talking about secondary and tertiary characters. Let’s have them be half female and give kids the sense that it’s ok for girls to take up space in the world, and for the boys to see it’s ok for girls to take up space in the world … My theory is our kids can eventually grow up having more respect for each other.”