Entertainment brands are rolling out the red carpet for Hispanic and Latino talent during Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, 2021, even while they continue to be marginalized in front of and behind the camera, according to a new study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative led by Stacy L. Smith. The study was released Wednesday to coincide with the month’s start.
The findings are an update to a prior study that evaluated leading and co-leading Hispanic and Latino actors and speaking parts across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 through 2019. The study also evaluates the presence of Hispanics and Latinos working behind the camera as directors, producers and casting directors. Finally, a qualitative analysis considered the stereotyping of these actors and characters in films from 2019 onward, comparing those results to an analysis spanning 200 top films from 2017 and 2018.
Hispanics and Latinos spend $1.7 trillion annually in the U.S. as consumers and account for a quarter of movie tickets sold, according to Deadline. Hispanics are defined as Spanish speakers who descend from Spanish-speaking countries, regardless of race, while Latinos come specifically from Central and South American and Caribbean countries.
Only 7 percent of films in 2019 featured a Hispanic or Latino actor in a lead or a co-lead, although that’s twice as many as the 3.5 percent that USC Annenberg found occupying those roles from 2007 through 2018. More than half of those roles were filled by girls and women, including six of the seven lead and co-lead actors in 2019. That said, Hispanic and Latina girls and women represent only 1.9 percent of all leads and supporting actors across 1,300 films, the study said.
“As companies celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through online posts, events, and employee resource groups, the evidence is clear that concern for inclusion happens when convenient or expected and not when it comes to greenlighting films by, for, and about the Hispanic/Latino community,” said Smith in a statement.
Hispanic and Latino leads and co-leads also face a significant age-related barrier. Only 1 percent of all 1,300 films featured a Hispanic/Latino lead or co-lead age 45 or older — including none in 2019. Only three of these roles were held by a woman 45 or older and two of those were Jennifer Lopez, 52; the other was Cameron Diaz, 49.
“Whether in leading roles or across all speaking characters, the absence of Hispanic and Latino actors and characters is noticeable,” said Ariana Case, the study’s lead author, also in a statement. “This community represents nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and nearly half of Los Angeles residents and yet remains almost invisible on screen.”
Turning to all speaking characters, 5.9 percent of all speaking or named characters in 2019 were Hispanic or Latinos of any race with no change year to year. Overall, only 5 percent of all 51,158 characters identified across the full 1,300 film sample were Hispanic orLatino.
“Representation on screen matters for our community — it shapes not just how others see us, but also how we see ourselves,” said Eva Longoria, president and CEO, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, also in a statement. UnbeliEVAble Entertainment and Wise Entertainment partnered with USC Annenberg on the study.
“It’s imperative that our media includes narratives that uplift Latino and Hispanic voices. We need to see ourselves in storytelling and we need the world to see the joy, the power, and the heart of our community in ways that are still all too rare. Media can make a difference in our world and we need to see real change.”
“After the first study, we had high expectations about what the market was going to concretely make to fill the void of Hispanic/Latino stories,” said Mauricio Mota, co-president of Wise Entertainment and producer of the Emmy-nominated series East Los High and the upcoming movie, Rezball. “There have always been excuses, but those simply do not make sense any longer. We can’t blame it on the ‘pipeline’: It exists. We can’t blame ‘a lack of stars’: They are there and they over-deliver. We can’t blame it on the absence of below-the-line talent: They exist and have earned the right to get the big jobs. And, last but not least, we can’t say there are not enough Latinx/Hispanic stories: There are 700 million people consuming them. It’s time we are not taken for granted anymore.”
While they work to improve those numbers, entertainment brands are working to highlight Hispanic and Latino performances, rolling out programming marathons, streaming hubs, online festivals and more to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
Univision and Telemundo, the predominant suppliers of Spanish-language programming to U.S. Hispanics and Latino communities, both launched campaigns in honor of the month.
Univision debuted Unidos Somos Uno across its platforms, celebrating “the extraordinary values, achievements and contributions of Latinos in America.” The campaign is intended to highlight “the beauty of the Hispanic experience” with stories, leaders and personalities in original segments, spots and vignettes on its flagship shows, on Univision.com’s inaugural Hispanic Heritage Month resource guide, as well across its digital, social, sports and music platforms.
Telemundo teamed with its parent company, NBCUniversal, to launch its first ever bilingual campaign, Come With Us (Juntos Imparable), sponsored by Unilever, Wells Fargo and Zelle. The campaign kicked off on NBC’s Today and Telemundo’s morning show, hoy Día. NBCUniversal’s linear and digital properties will feature integrations, vignettes, special news coverage and themed programming throughout the month.
HBO Max will mount a Moving Pa’lante (Moving Forward) spotlight page on its app and website, highlighting Hispanic and Latino content across the platform. HBO Max also is producing a free outdoor event at the New York Latino Film Festival, featuring a performance by reggaeton star Justin Quiles as well as food, games and dancing. The streaming service is also participating in a panel at the Latin Billboard Conference and a pop-up event in Los Angeles introducing Pa’lante! University. And from Sept. 24-26, HBO Max is hosting virtual concert watch parties hosted by Ada Rojas from Vecina Couture.
HBO sibling nets TBS, TNT and truTV are honoring what those networks are calling Latinx Heritage Month by airing movies and TV shows that “celebrate, honor and recognize members of the Latinx community.” These programs include such movies as Overboard, Hot Pursuit, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Fast & Furious and Fast Five as well as such TV series as Tacoma FD and George Lopez.
Free ad-supported Spanish-language network Sony Canal is airing Saturday marathons of Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa, starring Christian Meier and Marlene Favela. The series joins a Spanish-language lineup that includes dramas such as Doña Barbara, El Mariachi, Rosario Tijeras and Verdad Oculta, as well as localized versions of comedies The Nanny, Married with Children and Who’s The Boss?. Sony Canal is available on Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Plex, Xumo and Vizio SmartCast.
Finally, the Paley Center for Media is presenting its second annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration—“A Salute to Hispanic Achievements in Television"—a virtual month-long experience sponsored by Verizon and Citi. The panels include such Hispanic and Latino celebrities as Gloria Estefan, Wilmer Valderrama, José Díaz-Balart, María Elena Salinas and more. Check the website for a schedule of events.