Don’t let Encanto’s success and Bad Bunny’s fame fool you, Hispanics are still underrepresented in the American media industry.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that despite Hispanics accounting for 18% of the overall American workforce in 2019, they only accounted for an estimated 12% of the media industry’s workforce, including film, television, publishing, and news. Within the industry itself, Hispanic workers have the largest population of service workers. Service workers include positions like food service and cleaning service.
More recently, a study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reviewed the top grossing movies from 2019 and revealed that few Hispanic and/or Latino actors fill leading roles in popular films. Only a mere 7% of 2019 films featured a Hispanic and/or Latino actor in a lead or co-lead role. Of this 7%, the majority were women.
But does this come as news? A 2022 poll conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Campario and the National Hispanic Media Coalition revealed that 3 out of 5 people think there are not enough Latino actors and actresses on screen and 3 out of 4 Latinos believe that their culture is often stereotyped.
Oftentimes, Latine and Hispanic actors are casted in roles that negatively impact their cultures. Successful shows like Netflix’s Narcos depict a false reality of Hispanic culture and have caused real damage to Latin countries and their people. When the rare opportunity of portraying real life Lantine heroes arises, Latine and Hispanic actors are overlooked, like in the case of A Beautiful Mind where Jennifer Connelly was chosen to play the role of Salvadorian physicist, Alicia Nash.
Behind the scenes, the situation isn’t much better. The same USC study revealed that only 4.3% of directors were Hispanic and/or Latino. Among producers, only 3% were Hispanic/Latino and the majority of them were men.
Representation matters, especially within the Hispanic community. How is it that Hispanics account for 18% of the American population but only account for less than 4% of protagonists in American films? The American Hispanic and Latino population seem to be invisible in Hollywood and on the off chance that they are present, they play roles that continue to push the negative stereotypes already created. So much of what Hollywood has done has shaped how the world views us and how we view ourselves, that’s why it is important that Hispanic and Latinos gain control of the narrative and tell their own story.