Report: Disability Remains Underrepresented In Movies
A new analysis of hundreds of the most popular films in recent years finds that portrayals of people with disabilities are few and far between.
Characters with disabilities accounted for just 2.7 percent of speaking roles in the top Hollywood movies out last year, according to the report released this week from the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Researchers looked at disability representation in the top-grossing 100 movies released in 2015 and 2016 as part of a broader analysis that also examined the number of women, racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community portrayed.
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They found that all of these groups remained underrepresented on screen.
“These are sustained and systemic problems. It is impossible to look at this data without concluding that much of the advocacy surrounding on-screen representation over the past few years has not been successful,” said Stacy Smith, an author of the report.
In total, 124 characters with disabilities were depicted in 2016 films, up just slightly from 105 in 2015, but still far short of reflecting the estimated 1 in 5 Americans who have disabilities, the report found.
Strikingly, the authors noted that 38 films did not show a single character with a disability. By contrast, 15 movies featured a leading character in this population.
Of those who were represented, nearly 65 percent had physical disabilities, 32 percent had mental disabilities and 22 percent had communication difficulties. About 68 percent were men.
“Perhaps we will see more positive trends in the future, given the current level of conversation and success of certain movies this year,” Smith said. “However, until solutions focus on changing the exclusionary hiring practices and countering explicit and implicit biases in Hollywood, it is difficult to expect real change anytime soon.”