The last couple of years have seen some remarkable protests for better minority representation in Hollywood. In 2015, activist April Reign created the viral #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, which resurfaced again the next year; in 2014 and 2016, social media users made headlines when they challenged the casting of white actors as historically non-white characters in Exodus: Gods and Kings, Doctor Strange, and The Ghost in the Shell; and, in 2016, a federal investigation of film studios’ hiring practices began at the American Civil Liberties Union’s request. All this agitation extends from a long history of groups, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pushing the entertainment industry to portray and hire minorities fairly.
To see if these recent protests have had any effect, Pacific Standard reviewed the past few years of activists’ fight for diversity in Hollywood. The timeline below includes milestones in silver-screen representation, important protest events, and yearly numbers on how many minorities actually work and win awards in entertainment.
While this timeline is hardly comprehensive, it does illuminate some important findings. The narrative suggests that, while the modern conversation about diversity in movies is well underway, real improvements have only just begun. Most numbers have barely budged since surveys of movie diversity conducted by the University of Southern California and the University of California–Los Angeles began in the mid- to late-2000s. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reportedly still in settlement talks with studio heads. Will increased scrutiny move the needle on onscreen diversity in years to come? This year’s more diverse Academy Awards is at least a start.