Casting the Net: The Evolution of Character Representation in Film
Authors:Jordan Felipe, Bianca Ray
Mentor:David Grannis, Assistant Professor of Communications, California Lutheran University
Author: Bianca Ray, California Lutheran University Mentor: David Grannis, Communications Department, California Lutheran University Studies have alluded to the existence of racial discrimination in Hollywood based on evidence from recent film casts. The goal of this study was to track the prevalence of exclusionary practices in casting films and to find what factors contribute to these practices. The study was broken down into two phases. In the first phase, the top three grossing films of the decades between the 1930s and the 2000s were viewed and each character with a distinguishable speaking role was noted by their role in the film (leading, supporting or bit), their race and sex. In the second phase, film industry professionals and film scholars were interviewed to acquire their knowledge of how and why films are cast with a racial variance. The data collected from phase one showed that the number of minority characters on screen increased overtime. In the 24 films viewed, there were a total of 956 actors with speaking roles. Of those actors, 62 were Black, 40 were Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Indian, and 854 were White. In the decade between the 1930s and the 1970s, there was a total of 26 minority characters and in the following three decades (1980s-2000s) the amount of minority characters increased by 292% to 76. In phase two our interviewees consistently spoke of how the system of Hollywood is strictly business oriented and that films today are designed to fit consumer preferences based on market research. The results of the study showed that Hollywood is not necessarily a business run with the intentions to purposefully exclude certain races, but a business that is looking to receive the largest profit possible from the general public.