Latino Representation Statistics Low in Film, But We Have the Power to Change It

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UCLA’s 2023 Hollywood Diversity Report is out, and with it comes valuable insight and new Latino representation statistics on the big screen. Latinos continued to be underrepresented onscreen and off when it comes to Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean our community doesn’t have far-reaching, exciting influence in and out of the entertainment industry. 

The UCLA study focuses on the representation of racialized groups in 2022 English-language movies, specifically in the top 200 theatrical film releases ranked by global box office performance and the top 100 streaming films ranked by U.S. household ratings. The study examines the presence of underrepresented groups both in acting and supporting roles while focusing on any potential relationships between casting, box office performance, and household/viewer ratings in the 18-49 age range.

Principle authors Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, Michael Tran, and Dr. Darnell Hunt show that theatrical releases with 31-41% of their casts being Black, Latino, Asian, and/or mixed-race made the most money, while films with 11% or less of the casts being minorities greatly suffered. With people of color representing 43.1% of the United States population in 2022 and an estimated minority-majority population to be achieved in the coming decades, it’s no surprise that non-white communities hold great influence on the performance of releases – we’re becoming more and more of the target audience every day.

From UCLA’s 2023 Hollywood Diversity Report

Though the numbers look great for minorities in terms of controlling audience reception and influence post-release, the number of Latinos cast in leading roles continues to be low. In 2022, theatrical film leads were majority white, constituting 78.4% of roles while Latinos represented a measly 2.3%.

The Latino representation statistics for streaming didn’t look too good either – 66.7% of streaming films featured white leads, while Latinos represented 6.1%. This is especially disheartening given the fact that whites make up only 56.9% of the US population but get a disproportionate amount of representation in mainstream media vs the actual population.

Women, on the other hand, saw small gains in representation when it came to theatrical films, primarily in writing and film lead roles. Streaming film leads showed women represented at 48.5%, equal to their male equivalents. Though this is positive news, women continued to be underrepresented when it comes to theatrical and streaming film roles across the board.

So, what is the significance of these numbers? We know that the representation of Latinos onscreen has been one that has consistently served as a point of contention for our community. Exciting projects make big, splashy debuts just to disappoint us when they’re canceled shortly after. Latino-led shows, such as Gentefield, On My Block, and One Day at a Time, made waves for their multidimensional representation of our community – and all got canceled within the last few years despite rave reviews from Latine audiences. 

Despite these setbacks, Latinos are showing they love their own as headliners for big films – Scream VI, led by breakout Latina stars Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera as sisters Tara and Sam Carpenter met excellent audience reception and an opening weekend of $43.5 million, outperforming any other release of the franchise and claiming the top spot at the box office for that week.

Despite the ups and downs, one thing’s for sure: Latino audiences continued to be one of the most influential groups for the success of TV shows on streaming services, a Nielsen study shows. And our market share is only going to increase, thanks to our relative youth – more than half of U.S. Latinos are under the age of 34 while only 42% of non-Hispanics are:

From Nielsen

This Nielson study, written by Stacie de Armas, found that the younger Latinos are, the more shows they’re watching, making them one of the most influential audience groups. Indeed, 43.6% of Latinos stream TV – a much higher rate than other ethnic groups. With these viewing habits, Latinos are displaying a dedication to new releases that represent and serve our community.

The Latino representation statistics are here, so now what? It’s imperative that Latinos continue to push for more representation on the big and little screen. 

We must continue to advocate for ourselves both behind the camera and in front of it to see media that is reflective of our community – meaning, we can’t settle for stale stereotypes that keep us inside a box. Rather, we must push for honest, artistic stories of our community as we continue to progress and evolve with new forms of media. Without an active investment in our community from Hollywood, we will continue to see the same storylines told from the perspective of an entertainment industry determined to see us as a monolith – despite the fact that we’ve already proven we’re anything but.

With that, press play mija – and don’t forget to do it with gusto for Latine audiences everywhere.

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