Representation in the movie industry
And its effect on child development
When you were little, watching the television, were you able to identify yourself with some characters? Did they inspire you to become the person you are today?
It is important for children to see themselves represented in the media they consume, including movies. When children do not see themselves represented in movies, it can limit their perception of what is possible for them in the future. This lack of representation can also have negative effects on a child's self-esteem and self-concept (Chaplin and Roedder John, 2005). Studies have shown that movies can influence a child's gender identity (Aley and Hahn, 2020), moral foundation (Gehman et al., 2021), ethnic identity (Tukachinsky, 2015), sexual identity (Towbin et al., 2004), and many other aspects of their self-representation. For example, a child who does not see characters that look like them or share their experiences may feel like they are not important or valued. On the other hand, seeing characters that they can relate to can help children feel seen and valued, and can also provide them with role models to look up to. In order for children to have a diverse range of options for their future selves, it is important for the movie industry to provide representation for all groups of people. Thus , we looked into which groups of individuals are the most and least represented across the movie industry
In 2013, only 28.8% of main characters in US movies were female. This representation is slightly higher in European countries such as France and the UK and way higher in India. While the global population has a relatively equal ratio of males and females, this is not reflected in the movie industry. However, there has been a steady improvement in the representation of the two sexes in the movie industry since the 20th century, though perhaps not at a fast enough pace. This lack of representation can have negative effects on girls, who may not see themselves or their experiences reflected in the media they consume. It is important for the movie industry to continue working towards better representation for both sexes in order to create a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of society.
Sex Representation across time
There is a noticeable variance in the gender ratio of film characters between the 1940s and 1960s. This may be due to the fact that the movie industry was just starting to take off at that time, and was also heavily influenced by major events such as World War II and the Cold War (Yang et al., 2020). After the 1960s, the gender ratio in film became more stable. It's also worth noting that while there has been some progress in terms of increased representation of female characters in film in recent decades, this progress has been slow and uneven.
It is often thought that this poor representation of girls in movies is due to a belief that movies featuring female protagonists are not as financially successful as those featuring male protagonists. However, this is simply not true. A study by Riley Pranian et Al. found that the gender ratio of a movie's cast has no impact on its revenue. This means that the movie industry has no excuse not to strive for better representation of both sexes in order to create a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of society.
We wanted to examine the age ranges of actors and actresses and found that there is a difference of 10 years between the two. More specifically, actors have a wider age range, with a mean around 40 years old. In contrast, the age range for actresses is smaller, with a mean around 30 years old. Both of these averages have risen in the past decade, but the age gap between actors and actresses remains evident and has existed since the beginning of the film industry.
This age gap can have significant consequences for the careers of actresses. For example, actresses may face ageism and discrimination in the industry, which can limit the roles available to them as they get older. This can make it difficult for them to sustain a successful acting career over the long term. Additionally, the limited age range for actresses may reinforce the belief that women are only valued for their youth and beauty, rather than for their talent and skill.
Sex representation across movie genres
The representation of sex in movies was not limited to the unequal ratio of men to women. Gender stereotypes were also prevalent. In order to better understand the distribution of sexes across movie genres in the United States and United Kingdom, the two top movie producing countries, we conducted a detailed analysis.
We found that male protagonists were often featured in action and thriller genres, while female protagonists were commonly limited to romantic genres. This reinforces harmful stereotypes that can have negative impacts on both men and women (Ward and Aubrey, 2017). For instance, the limited roles available to women in the movie industry can perpetuate the belief that women are not as capable as men in certain areas, such as action and adventure. This can harm women's confidence and career aspirations in real life. Meanwhile, men who do not fit traditional masculine stereotypes may feel pressure to conform to these narrow expectations in order to be successful in the movie industry.
In general, there is a lack of representation of women in film. When they do appear, they are often limited to stereotypical roles, such as the young romantic interest or family caregiver. Meanwhile, men are often depicted as heroic and brave in their mid 40s. These societal stereotypes are evident in the movie industry.
Our study of ethnic representation in movies revealed that certain groups are underrepresented, similar to the situation with sex representation in the industry. In some regions, certain ethnic groups are significantly underrepresented, while in others, there is a more balanced representation. This lack of representation can have negative effects on members of underrepresented groups, who may not see themselves or their experiences reflected in the media they consume. It is essential for the movie industry to strive for better representation of all ethnicities in order to create a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of society. This can help to promote diversity and combat discrimination and prejudice.
It is important to note that we are discussing ethnicity, not race. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different things.
By recognizing the distinction between the two, we can avoid conflating them and better understand the diversity of human experience.
Race is a socially constructed category based on physical characteristics, such as skin color, facial features, and hair texture. These characteristics are used to assign individuals to a racial group, such as African, Asian, or Caucasian.
Ethnicity, on the other hand, refers to a shared cultural heritage and identity. This can include factors such as language, religion, customs, and national origin. Ethnicity is often tied to race, but it is not determined solely by physical characteristics.
Timeline of ethnic representation
Our analysis revealed significant variations in ethnic representation in the film industry across different continents. It is therefore important to conduct a specific analysis of individual countries.
In addition to examining the overall representation of different ethnicities in the movie industry, we also looked at the specific genres in which they were more likely to be represented. This analysis revealed that certain ethnicities are more heavily associated with certain genres, which can lead to stereotypes. Some of these stereotypes may be used for comedic effect, but they can also have negative consequences.
For example, certain ethnicities, such as Jews, may be more likely to be cast in comedic roles, or Indians may be more likely to be cast in romantic genres, which can reinforce the belief that they are inherently funny or attractive. This can create unrealistic expectations for members of these ethnicities and contribute to discrimination and prejudice.
Overall, we have observed that some ethnicities are more prominently represented in certain film genres. As mentioned earlier, a lack of representation can be a significant issue during child development. While we have seen an increase in ethnic representation over time, the pace of change has not been as rapid as it could be.
There has been a gradual increase in LGBTQ+ representation in the film industry over the past century, which suggests that the industry is becoming more inclusive. However, from 2010 to 2012, representation significantly decreased from 2.5% to 0.5%. Overall, there is still a significant lack of representation for LGBTQ+ individuals in the film industry. This can have negative impacts on LGBTQ+ individuals who may not see themselves or their experiences represented in the media they consume. It can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.
LGBTQ+ characters and their ethnicities
Our analysis found that characters present in LGBTQ+ movies are often represented by specific ethnicities, with English and Jewish actors being particularly common. This ethnic distribution may show stereotypes about some ethnicities as if they are more or less open to the LGBTQ+ community.
To determine the presence of harmful stereotypes, we analyzed film genres that depicted LGBTQ+ characters. Our findings showed that the majority of movies featuring LGBTQ+ characters were dramas, followed by comedies and romances.
The limited representation of LGBTQ+ characters in other genres may reinforce the belief that LGBTQ+ individuals are only interested in or capable of being involved in specific types of relationships or plotlines. It is crucial to consider the potential impact on children who identify as LGBTQ+ and may see these representations.
It is also important to examine the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters within these genres. Are they being depicted as fully developed, multi-dimensional characters or are they being reduced to stereotypes or caricatures? It is essential for media to accurately and respectfully portray LGBTQ+ characters in order to promote acceptance and understanding.
In conclusion, LGBTQ+ friendly films are relatively scarce in the film industry. Additionally, these few films are often associated with specific genres, which may perpetuate stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community. This lack of representation can contribute to a lack of tolerance in children and may reinforce harmful stereotypes.
Our analysis of the movie industry revealed significant disparities in the representation of different sexes, ethnicities, and LGBTQ+ individuals. While there has been some progress in recent years, these groups are still underrepresented in the industry compared to their proportions in the global population. This lack of representation can have negative effects on members of these groups, who may not see themselves or their experiences reflected in the media they consume. It can also contribute to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and discrimination. Furthermore, this lack of representation can have negative effects on the development of children who consume media. It can also limit their understanding of the diversity of the world around them and contribute to the perpetuation of discrimination and prejudice.
It is important for the movie industry to continue working towards better representation for all sexes, ethnicities, and LGBT individuals in order to create a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of society. This can help to promote equality and combat prejudice and discrimination. By striving for greater representation, the movie industry can play a role in promoting a more inclusive and diverse society, and in fostering the healthy development of children.