Despite Hollywood’s Gap in Representation, Latino Shows Got Highest Ratings Among Viewers
Latinos in Hollywood made a big splash in theaters and on television this year. Jenna Ortega broke records on Netflix’s “Wednesday.” Pedro Pascal led both HBO’s “The Last of Us” and Disney’s “The Mandalorian” and America Ferrera starred in “Barbie,” the biggest blockbuster of the year.
It’s an important moment for representation in Hollywood, says Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, the director of the Entertainment and Media Research Initiative (EMRI) at UCLA. But she doesn’t know yet how it will impact the data.
“Statistically speaking, it’s probably not going to create that much of a difference, but you have to start with momentum to break through into the cultural zeitgeist,” she said.
Ramón is one of the authors of the UCLA Hollywood Diversity report. Now in its 10th year, the report shows how little has changed for Latinos in television.
What do the numbers look like for Latinos in Hollywood?
Ramón and her team analyzed 521 live-action, scripted T.V. shows that aired during the 2021-2022 season. Here are some of their findings for Latinos on T.V.:
6.1 percent of leads and 5.7 percent of all the roles in broadcast scripted shows.
3.6 percent of leads and 4.9 percent of all roles in cable scripted shows.
4.3 percent of leads and 6.1 percent of all roles in digital scripted shows.
Those numbers are only slightly higher than last year’s report, which found Latinos led in 5.7 percent of broadcast shows, 2.8 percent in cable shows and 4.3 percent in digital shows of the 2020-2021 season.
The shows that had Latino representation boasted some of the highest ratings
That 2021-2022 season of television introduced us to new Latino actors and kept us watching with familiar favorites. We’re talking about Oscar Isaac in “Moon Knight,” Cierra Ramirez in “Good Trouble,” Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” Judy Reyes in “Claws” and many more.
While these actors became fixtures on our screens at home, they’re also evidence of just how much more work Hollywood has to do to increase diversity in the industry.
“Hollywood creates stars, and that’s what they’ve always done for white actors,” Ramón said. “It’s imperative that they do that for these other groups.”
Especially because as the report shows, audiences of color want to see themselves on the screen. The report includes those shows from the 2021-2022 season as some of the top ten shows watched not just by Black, Latino and Asian households but by many other demographics.
“Claws” ranked at the number four most popular show for women ages 18-40. “The Lincoln Lawyer” was ranked number nine in digital scripted shows for all households and FX’s “Mayans MC,” which features a full slate of Latinos, was at number four in cable shows for Latino households.
“People of color, they will gravitate toward shows with other people of color,” Ramón said. “Hollywood can say whatever they want to say, but Latinx people do support Latinx actors, they do support Latinx content.”
Films are also lacking in Latino representation
Part one of the report came out in March and focused on the movie side of the business. But the numbers there are not much better. In 2022, two movies with Latino leads were distributed globally: “Scream” starring Melissa Barrera and “Marry Me” with Jennifer Lopez as the lead. In the international box office, these movies averaged at $95.2 million.
But outside of leading roles, that year also saw the release of “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever” with Michael B. Jordan and Tenoch Huerta as Namor. That movie was the only one to star an actor of color in the top 10 films in terms of domestic ticket sales.
“There’s a longstanding myth that diversity doesn’t travel,” Ramón said. “Our research shows it does. Black, Latinx and Asian leads do just as well internationally than in the U.S.”
The report acknowledges that 2021 was a hard year for Hollywood, sandwiched between the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and a general downturn in profits for many streaming services. Still, it recognizes that there were promises made to increase diversity on and off the screens, while executives cut back on many roles and opportunities for people of color.
“Hollywood creates stars and they’ve always done that for white actors,” Ramón said. “It’s imperative they do this for other groups as well.”
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