Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. For many moviegoers, that means escaping to a galaxy far, far away—or perhaps just a different version of our own planet Earth—through science fiction and fantasy movies. As fans clamor for the latest cinematic thrills, we decided to focus our next Diversity Gap study on the level of racial and gender representation in these ever-popular genres that consistently rake in the big bucks for movie studios. We reviewed the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as reported by Box Office Mojo. The results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, US politics, and the Academy Awards, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

(see end of post for a list of included movies in each category)

Among the top 100 domestic grossing films through 2014:

• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color 

• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)

• 0% of protagonists are women of color. 14% of protagonists are women 

• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ

• 2% of protagonists are people with a disability

The following interviews with two prominent entertainment equality advocacy groups shed more light on the subject.

Marissa Lee Marissa Lee is co-founder of Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. Racebending.com advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media and is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Imran Siddiquee

Imran Siddiquee is Director of Communications at the Representation Project, which is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change. The Representation project was the follow-up to the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Representation.

 

Jason Low: Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?

Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination. These statistics aren’t necessarily surprising, since lack of diversity in Hollywood films is a well-known problem. There have been enough studies and articles, and any moviegoer can pause to notice there is a disparity. . . . Hollywood can’t go on pretending that this isn’t a problem.Hollywood can't go on pretending like this isn't a problem.

JL: Do you think the American movie-going audience would support a big, blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy movie with a diverse protagonist if a studio made it?

Imran Siddiquee: Yes, definitely. But I think an important thing to understand about Hollywood blockbusters is that they are almost never flukes; they are preordained. Sure, we have the occasional surprise indie hit, but you need a lot of money and marketing behind you to become a blockbuster. Just look at the top ten films in each of the last five years: nearly every single one had a budget of more than $100 million (a lot of them were also sci-fi/fantasy films).

Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a single film released this year starring a person of color with a budget of more than $50 million, let alone a sci-fi film, which is naturally going to be more expensive. The same goes for most of the last decade. So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” or “there’s no evidence that this would work,” the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.

Studios take a couple of massively expensive chances every year on mostly unknown actors or directors—aka giving the Spider-Man franchise to Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield in 2012—but they just don’t take those kinds of chances on people of color. In other words, if Hollywood wanted to make a blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy film starring a woman of color, they definitely could.

ML: I think American audiences would support a film with a diverse protagonist, because we already have. One pullout statistic from your infographic is that Will Smith leads six of the top 100 big sci-fi/fantasy films. His race wasn’t a huge impediment to box office success and may have, in fact, been part of what made him all-American and relatable. That was back in the late 1990s, but since then, Hollywood hasn’t tried to find a new Will Smith. This is kind of ironic, given that Hollywood likes to stick to formulas and sequels! They could push forward another actor—or actress—of color with Smith’s charisma. They haven’t.

The American movie audience supports any movie that Hollywood successfully markets well, especially—but not always—if the film is well produced. Hollywood has managed to market some weird stuff, like a tentpole movie about talking teenage turtle martial artists, or cars that change into space robots, and so on. I don’t buy that when it comes to marketing diverse leads, suddenly this giant industry can’t do it.

So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” . . . the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.I’d be interested in seeing how many of these top 100 grossing sci-fi and fantasy films star non-human leads. I wonder if there are more films with non-human leads than minority human leads on the list!

(Side note: Does the infographic count Keanu Reeves as white or as a person of color? I think he has more than one movie on this list given The Matrix trilogy…)

Editorial note: Yes, Keanu Reeves is counted as a PoC and did make the list for The Matrix. The second Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded was the only installment of the trilogy to make the top 100 list.

JL: What challenges have you faced or seen peers facing as a woman/person of color, etc.?

ML: There are films with built-in audiences that Hollywood still insists on whitewashing, which has a very adverse effect on actors of color. Let’s be honest, audiences would have still flocked to see The Hunger Games or Twilight if characters like Katniss or Jacob had been cast with people of color as they were written in the books. An actor with a disability could have played the protagonist in Avatar—if we have the technology and imagination to animate a fanciful world populated by blue cat people, we could have cast an actor with a disability similar to the lead character’s in that role. As a result of these casting decisions, up and coming actors from underrepresented groups were deprived of career exposure from being a part of these established franchises, making it harder for Hollywood ever to try and launch a new franchise with an actor from an underrepresented group.

Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist, even if white women (mostly love interests) and men of color (support roles) have played roles in the film. The franchise is a box office juggernaut and has a ton of movies on this list, but we’ve gotten two to three movies about each of the men on the Avengers and there’s yet to be a film about Black Widow. Both of Marvel’s ensemble films—The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy—trimmed down the superhero teams for their film adaptations, and the women characters, save for one, were the first to be cut. Most moviegoers will never know that women of color and LGBTQ characters were cut from Guardians of the Galaxy, but audiences will get to relate to the talking raccoon and the talking tree.

More recently, the Divergent franchise cast Naomi Watts to play a character who was a woman of color in the books. It’s a supporting role for an already established franchise, and for whatever reason the production still couldn’t bring themselves to cast an actor of color.

Trends that fans have noted in the media include that in big blockbuster sci-fi and fantasy films, the presence of a straight, white, able-bodied, cis male in some central role in the story is almost guaranteed, while the presence of characters with “minority” identities (e.g. LGBTQ folks, people of color, people with disabilities, women, etc.) is not. Even when a character who isn’t a straight, white cis male is centered in a story, there’s probably a straight, white, cis male character playing second, if not lead, billing. For example, while we can reasonably assume that the next few Star Trek and Star Wars movies will have some diverse characters, we can guarantee that at least one of the leads will be a straight, white man. If The Hunger Games or Twilight had cast actors of color for Katniss or Jacob, there would still have been plenty of lead roles filled by white actors. DC is including Wonder Woman in an upcoming movie, but the film will also feature Batman and Superman.

This means that someone with a lot of intersecting privileged identities (especially straight, white men) will always be able to walk into a multiplex and find a sci-fi/fantasy movie starring someone who shares those identities. If you have a lot of marginalized identities, then representation is a sometimes thing, never a solid guarantee. There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits. But there are just as many, if not more, people who are willing to support, vociferously, films with diverse leads. I wish our money was as good as theirs.There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits.

JL: How can consumers encourage more diversity in movies? 

IS: Avoid buying tickets to films which clearly rely on stereotypes or demeaning portrayals of people based on gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, ability, or circumstance. And anytime you do watch a film, give it The Representation Test afterward. The test grades films on their inclusiveness pertaining to all those above categories. When a movie scores really low on the test, use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to let the filmmakers and all your friends know how you feel. Since so much of this industry is based on money, this is one way we can express our discontent and get the attention of the studios.

ML: Media literacy is a huge start. As media consumers, we should feel empowered to critique the media we consume, and to decide what media we choose to consume. Beyond helpful steps like going to see movies that feature diverse leads, it’s just as important to start conversations in our own communities and with our friends and family (the people we consume media with!) to raise awareness about diversity and representation. Even if we don’t go to see movies that whitewash or exclude or present discriminatory content, people we know will. One way we can help change things is by continuing to start conversations. We need to create an environment where it is safe to criticize popular franchises for lacking diversity. We also need to keep drowning out the malcontents who cannot even handle actors of diverse backgrounds in supporting roles. Social media has really knocked down barriers when it comes to communicating our opinions with Hollywood brass. It’s also given us several spaces where we can discuss the media we consume with our friends and family. In addition, the internet has really changed how we access and consume media. There are Kickstarters and indie channels and online comics and other outlets so we don’t have to be reliant on big production studios or publishers as our only sources of entertainment.

JL: How close or far do you think we are from getting these statistics to change?

IS: When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up. For instance, 0% for women of color in top sci-fi films means I’m being honest when I say things will certainly improve soon, but that’s not saying much. I think we are pretty far away from true equality, or a cinema that reflects and includes the broad diversity of human experiences in the real world.

When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.Too many wealthy, white men still run Hollywood, and their decisions still have too much power. As I mentioned earlier, these kinds of movies are very expensive, and so it’s hard for independent or upstart filmmakers to break through or compete.

That being said, the slight increase in success for white women in blockbuster sci-fi movies, such as Gravity, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, means change is possible. And it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Oscar wins for 12 Years a Slave last year, because while it wasn’t a blockbuster, it is a film that everyone in the industry now knows about and has probably seen. And the whole reason we’re even talking about representation in movies right now is because we know how much seeing different experiences on screen can impact people’s real world thoughts and attitudes. So films like 12 Years a Slave are part of the gradual shifting of consciousness that has to happen in Hollywood to get to a point where studios are consistently greenlighting big-budget films starring people of color.

ML: As budgets for tentpole science fiction and fantasy movies have soared, studios have been more reluctant to take a chance on actors or characters that they perceive as risks. Because people of color and women are also already more likely to consume movies than white people and men, maybe they don’t feel an incentive to change what they are doing because, from their perspective, minorities are perfectly willing to watch films starring white guys. Hollywood is pretty stubborn, especially when it comes to tentpole movies. We are seeing more diversity in television, particularly in children’s television, as well as in online content. The establishment will change when someone influential in Hollywood decides to take the risk and make an effort to diversify their film offerings. The stats in this infographic are focused on profit, not art. For things to change, Hollywood needs to believe that diversity can be profitable.

***

This is not an isolated incident, but a wide reaching societal problem.

Read more Diversity Gap studies on:

The Academy Awards

The Tony Awards

The Emmy Awards

The children’s book industry

The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List

US politics

Further resources on how to teach content and visual literacy using Lee & Low Books’ infographics series on the Diversity Gap:

Using Infographics In The Classroom To Teach Visual Literacy

CONTACT: For more information or to request permission to reprint, please email hehrlich[at]leeandlow[dot]com

Update, 8-13-14: Careful readers called our attention to the fact that we missed one character with a disability from the movie How to Train Your Dragon. We have updated our statistics and infographic accordingly. Several others have asked for a list of the winners, so here they are:

Movies starring a protagonist of color: Independence Day, The Matrix Reloaded, I Am Legend, Men in Black, Hancock, Aladdin, Men in Black II, Men in Black III

Movies starring a female protagonist: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games, Frozen, Alice in Wonderland (2003), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Brave, The Exorcist, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, Monsters vs. Aliens, Twilight

Movies with a villain of color: Aladdin

Movies starring protagonists with a disability: Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon

37 Comments

  1. Posted July 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is depressing. 6 of 8 are Will Smith… It’s really hard to surprise me with bad diversity news out of Hollywood, but that did.
    Great job as usual, Lee and Low team!

  2. Posted July 30, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Scribe's Apprentice and commented:
    Important part of reality. We need diverse books, and we need diverse representation in mainstream media….very thoughtful informational post. Must read!

  3. Posted July 30, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    While the incredibly low score are not at all surprising, the numbers seem a little off. Wouldn’t Zoe Saldana be on the list at least once for her role in Avatar? And maybe even for her role in the Star Trek movies? Or is she not considered a protagonist? I guess I was just wondering about the specifics of the study. It’s just as disappointing that she’s the only truly famous woman of color Sci-Fi/Fantasy actress (and she’ll continuing the streak in GotG), but it was odd not to see her mentioned. Here’s hoping that Lupita Nyong’o’s role in Star Wars is front and center!

  4. Who?
    Posted July 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Who is the one disabled protagonist in a sci-fi or fantasy film? I can’t think of anyone.

  5. Who?
    Posted July 30, 2014 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Wait, nvm, I figured it out: ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2.’ Which…yeah, that counts I guess. It’s not a super realistic portrayal of an amputee with a prosthetic, especially given the state of Viking medical technology, like it sorta handwaves the chronic pain / phantom limb / slower running pace issues that come with an amputation like that. But, uh, it also has dragons and it’s for small children, so I guess demonstrating the reality of living with a disability would kinda harsh the vibe whimsy they’re going for. And I appreciate Hiccup as a character more than I do “inspirational” kid stereotypes.

  6. Temmere
    Posted July 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m assuming The Princess and the Frog wasn’t included because it wasn’t in the top 100 in domestic gross? It seems to me that there is a problem with focusing on the top earning films and then exclusively blaming Hollywood for the problem. The studios do occasionally make movies that would change these statistics, but if not enough people see them then this influences the studios’ willingness to continue doing so. I think that influence goes both ways.

  7. Dee
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    For the record, Keanu Reeves is approximately 1/4 non-white. His father’s parents were both mixed race. Their non-white parts were mostly Hawaiian with a bit of Chinese.

  8. David
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Why was How to Train Your Dragon (1) left off of protagonists with a disability? What were your parameters for qualifying as a protagonist with a disability?

  9. Brent Hartinger
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a fantastic project. I hope it gets a ton of attention.

    Speaking from the perspective of a screenwriter, I’d add that while some of this is outright racism (and also outright classism, maybe even even bigger issue), a lot of it is also people not wanting to make any waves at all. “Go with what works.” Taking a “risk” on Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man doesn’t seem risky at all (and ISN’T risky) because it’s been done a million times before — and, more importantly, if the film fails, no one will blame Andrew Garfiend’s race, or the executives and casting director who hired him. But if the same actor was black, race (or gender) would absolutely be blamed.

    This is a HUGE problem, and it will continue to be until race and gender are non-issues. Talk about a Catch-22!

    Speaking for myself, when I’m working on a new project, I often think, “How much risk do I take?” Just getting ANY of my projects produced, the odds are INCREDIBLY long. So I want to do whatever I can to INCREASE the odds, not decrease them. If I’ve made a daring choice in terms of gender or narrative, I often think, “Oh, man, do I want to push the envelope on race too?” That will make this already difficult project IMPOSSIBLE to sell, or even get read. I know that sounds like selling out, but this is what I do for a living, and we all need to eat.

    In the end, though, executives are never going to change until they perceive that it’s in their financial interest to change. As long as audiences flock to these (mostly) brain-dead straight white superhero movie sequels and reboots — and audiences seem to LOVE these movies — it’s going to be really tough to get executives to kill the cash cow, or even broaden its definition.

    At the same time, articles like this really help, because they make audiences more aware of their actions (and, perhaps, put pressure on executives — some of them do have SOME shame).

    I’m also encouraged that audiences are responding to BOOKS with non-white, non-male protagonists, because if the book is successful, it is another way to FORCE executives to confront these issues (because they think they can make money!). The Hunger Games wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t been a book first. Ditto, Twilight (for all its depressing anti-feminist messages). And these movies have totally changed the trajectory in Hollywood, literally making female action heroes at least POSSIBLE in major movies. The barrier to entry is much, much lower for authors of books with non-white and non-male protagonists.

    Anyway, good luck! This is exactly what needs to be done.

    P.S. Keep in mind that “Hollywood” is not one entity. It’s thousands of individuals, some of whom try very hard to exhibit integrity (but most of whom just wanna make money).

  10. Posted July 31, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    To me, a protagonist is someone who is the leading character (oftentimes the person at the front of the movie poster). According to the Oxford Dictionary, a protagonist is “an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea.” So for example, in the Harry Potter movies, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all main characters, but Harry is the protagonist.

    Sci-fi and fantasy movies are a huge genre, and not just among science fiction and fantasy fans. A lot of my friends are huge fans of the superhero movies! Seeing these statistics are truly disappointing, especially considering that these kinds of films attract all kinds of people.

  11. beaucoupjack
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    While not arguing with your thesis, I think that Gina Torres’ role as Zoe Washburne in Serenity qualifies as supporting. She gave great performances throughout the Firefly/Serenity series and was a strong counter character to Mal Reynolds. Kudos to her and Joss Whedon.

  12. Hannah
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Zoe Saldana is not counted in the study because while she is one of the main characters in Avatar (and Star Trek) we didn’t consider her to be the movie’s protagonist. Avatar is the one movie starring a character with a disability – though he enters a different world in order to get rid of that disability, so it’s not exactly a great representation.

    David, How to Train Your Dragon was left off because it did not make the list of the 100 top domestic-grossing movies. However it’s definitely worth noting that it includes a portrayal of a character with a disability!

  13. Hannah
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Dee, regarding your question about Keanu Reeves, that was a tough one for us. It’s hard to get exact information about his background and determining whether or not someone is a person of color is FAR from an exact science. Usually we look first at how someone self-identifies. In Reeves’ case it could certainly be argued either way – if you do take him off the list, the statistics only become more stark because that leaves just one actor of color on the whole list: Will Smith!

  14. James
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    While I think there are problems with studio decisions, I think Temmere has a point. Audiences have to buy the tickets for a movie to make the top 100, so audiences play a significant role in these statistics. Sometimes studios cast minority or female leads, but audiences don’t come out in sufficient numbers to make your list. Sanaa Lathan, a black actress, was the protagonist in Alien vs. Predator, the successor to two franchises. Biracial actor Vin Diesel starred in 3 Riddick movies, one of which had a budget of over $100 million. The top 100 budgeted sci-fi and fantasy films would a metric more focused on measuring the studios commitment to diversity in casting.

  15. Mas
    Posted August 2, 2014 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Seriously you say that how to train your dragon was not a top grossing domestic film and yet it made 217 million domestically which is as much as aladdin, more than the first matrix film, more than the first captain america, Thor and the first movie of the twilight series. So yes there seems to be something off on your states based on that information.

  16. Posted August 3, 2014 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Dark Matters Project and commented:
    Thank you, Jason Low, for this great post…do much info and two thoughtful interviews.

  17. Pete Gaughan
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s too bad Catwoman was a flop; but I assume one or more X-Men films were on the top 100 list and therefore you counted Storm as not being a protagonist?

    I completely support the aims of the analysis, I’m just idly curious about Berry.

  18. eyelessgame
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to undermine the point – and the difference between 0% and 1% shouldn’t obscure the overall lack of diversity – but to be pedantic, #68 on the list of top 100 grossing SF/F films is Lilo and Stitch, and the protagonist of that film is a (young) women of color.

  19. Laurie H.
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I absolutely agree with Hollywood’s lack of diversity, in fact, when it comes to ANY aspect of new movies. I don’t see why people would not love movies with non-white protagonist, if they chose great actors. Will Smith is an amazing example of that, people love him no matter what. Great female main protagonists are missing as well. However, what is striking too is the lack of originality, creativity and inspiration in the movies. The stories are mostly just repetitive and lame, the jokes are rarely truly witty anymore and the actors’ performance is unfortunately rather mediocre. Maybe Hollywood should focus on a number of changes it needs to do in order to secure its successful future, isn’t that right? FYI,this is also a nice read about Hollywood Future, form a different angle though.

  20. craig niswonger
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Avatar is #1. It’s main female character is Zoe Saldana. She’s not the primary protagonist, but is that all that’s counting?

  21. Skunkrocker
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Where is this list? I want to see it.

    I’d also like to know why they didn’t present their information in a way that compares are variables. How many LGBTQ villains? I can think of at least two that are probably in the top 100. How many actors playing protagonists and antagonists that are LGBTQ playing characters who aren’t? I’d love to see that answered. Protagonists with a disability compared to what? Where are the antagonists with a disability? And what do they mean by disability?

    I’m not saying these people are wrong but if they want me to take them seriously clever graphic design isn’t the way to do it. Give me charts, give me essays, don’t make me do the fucking research myself just give me your research and cite your sources so I can double check your work if I feel the need to, and don’t do these “infographics” filled with niche little bullshit commentaries like “Six of these eight black guys were Will Smith” Which six movies were those? Independence Day, the Men in Black Films, and… what? Hancock? I Robot? This is important information, don’t you think?

    Lee and Low… I want an Excel spreadsheet dedicated to your findings cited and notated by monday morning.

  22. jagwat
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Being someone who studies film and has grown up watching predominately Sci-fi and fantasy films I found this interesting. I’ve also read the above comments regarding what you define as a protagonist.

    The issue I have with the definition of the dictionary version of the word is that it is a generalisation which doesn’t take into consideration if the narrative of the film is a multi-strand production. Also in a lot of sci-fi films (especially super hero ones) the plot wouldn’t work if it only had the single protagonist. For example if Storm couldn’t control the weather in the X-men films then the X jet would be seen quite often and most likely shot down.

    Another factor I can’t see is if the statics represent individual films or films that are part of a franchise? Are you taking into consideration if the actors themselves are LGBT/Have Disabilities etc. or is it based of the characters they play?

    Finally. Why is it only Sci-Fi and Fantasy and not the top 100 blockbusters of all time? As the film industry goes through phases depending on what genre is popular.

  23. Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Brent,

    Thanks for that perspective. Yes, there are a lot of people in Hollywood and movie-making in general (people like you, people like Amma Asante, who made Belle) who work at changing this dynamic, and your point about audiences being a HUGE part of showing the execs that there’s money to be made in diverse SFF is well taken.

    Every time we have even a glimpse of diversity, I try to put my money where my mouth is (Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, is … a start, though not the most perfect of them). And then I review it and talk it up on social media, encouraging friends to do the same. Whether we have a big megaphone or a small one, each of us in the audience has a part to play in encouraging diversity in the films that get made, and making sure that those films that have diversity get better marketing.

    The more we do this, as with books, the more of them will get made.

  24. Lo
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone have a link to the list of 100 movies? I checked Box Office Mojo, and googled at length, but could not find a unified list of 100 movies with both sci fi and fantasy on it. They appear to have lists broken down by more specific subcategory.

  25. Hannah
    Posted August 11, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Lo,
    We compiled the list including titles from several subcategories, as there wasn’t one that covered all sci-fi/fantasy movies together. We loosely defined sci-fi/fantasy movies as any movies with an element of magic in them.

  26. Posted August 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Craig, Re: Zoe Saldana in Avatar, although she is a PoC in real life, the character she plays is a blue alien, so she is not technically a PoC (by human measurements, anyway).

  27. Posted August 11, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Jagwat, You bring up some good points that we had to come to terms with when we decided on the parameters of our study.

    Growing up I was a big comic book reader and I agree with you that the team mattered a great deal, often deciding the outcome in winning or losing battles. The problem with Storm (the cinematic version) is she is vastly underwritten compared to the comic when we knew her entire backstory and who she was. In the X-films she barely has any lines at all. So even though she was a major player in the comics (she was actually my favorite X-men leader) she has been demoted to a minor character in the films, which is a shame. Why hire an academy award winning actress like Berry and give her so little to do? It makes no sense.

    Your question re: if the actors themselves have disabilities or are LGBT in real life were not counted. Otherwise, we could have counted Zachary Quinto since he is openly gay in real life, but his character Mr. Spock is straight.

    And finally the reason, we decided to focus on SFF films and not just blockbusters in general was b/c in science fiction and fantasy films ANYTHING is (supposed to be) possible. While it is a given that these are big money making vehicles from a conceptual aspect these films should be diverse and there really isn’t any excuse whatsoever for them not to be.

  28. Hannah
    Posted August 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Mas,
    Thanks for calling our attention to How to Train Your Dragon. I double checked and it was indeed on our list – I was incorrect before when I said it wasn’t. We did miss that it features a protagonist with a disability, however, so thank you for pointing that out! We will be revising our statistics and updating the infographic with the corrected statistics in the next few days.
    Hannah

  29. Hannah
    Posted August 12, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Eyelessgame,
    Lilo and Stich didn’t end up on our top 100 grossing movies list when we compiled everything – it only had a $145,794,338 lifetime gross and the lowest movie on our list had a domestic gross of over $176,000,000, according to Box Office Mojo.

  30. efaston
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    “Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist”

    Marvel did produced Elektra in 2005, and a series of Blade films.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elektra_(2005)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_(film)

  31. Posted August 18, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Where is Ellen Ripley in the list of female protagonists?

  32. Hannah
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Idlapinski,
    The Alien movies (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection) did not earn enough to make our list of the 100 top-grossing movies (as reported by Box Office Mojo), so she was not included.
    Hannah

  33. Posted August 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Alien and the Ellen Ripley character was a favorite of mine growing up. Since films are so much more expensive nowadays and the distribution models have expanded, the list tends to favor recent films over older ones. Obviously a top 100 best of… list would look completely different from top grossing list.

  34. Brian Battles
    Posted August 20, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    This is mental masturbation.
    According to the census of 2012, there are five times as many European Americans as there are African Americans and almost six times as many European Americans as there are Latin/Hispanic Americans and more than twelve times as many European Americans as there are Asian Americans.
    I don’t see any articles on this web page asking why there isn’t a more visible European-Japanese presence in Japanese cinema.
    I don’t see any articles on this blog asking why there isn’t a more visible European-Indian presence in Bollywood films.
    The reason those articles are not present is because people of European descent are minorities in those countries. Therefore they simply don’t get as much representation as the MAJORITY population. This is not unfair.
    This is not some kind of invisible racism. It is simply the law of averages.

    The reason the “Top 100 domestic grossing science fiction films blah blah blah” have more white characters is because there are more white actors in the U.S. The reason there are more white actors in the U.S. is because there are five times as many white people here as the next largest ethnic group.
    More white actors equals, statistically, a greater number of white actors that develop big names. More big names equals, statistically, more big names in Science Fiction and Fantasy movies. Big names draw big crowds. More European American big name actors (due to the larger starting population of actors) equals more big audiences equals more money made by those movies that have those big name actors. More money made by movies equals more movies.
    Go ahead and take a survey of ALL movies made in the science fiction and fantasy genres in the United States. I am willing to bet that this survey will reveal a more realistic spread of protagonists of different races. BUT….there are simply more big name stars of European American ancestry because there are simply more European American people in the U.S. The law of averages indicates that a larger starting population of anything will statistically prove to have, on average, a larger subset of any statistical grouping you name.
    This is the reality of the world you live in.
    There are better things to worry about, like the violence in the Middle East.

  35. Posted August 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Brian, Your first statement is disrespectful. This study is trending and been shared by thousands. For you to equate this to an act of self-enjoyment shows a sincere lack of empathy for others.

    Your comparison of the US cinema to Japanese or Indian cinema is not comparing apples to apples. The ethnic diversity of Japan is comprised of Japanese-Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, and Ainu. While India’s ethnic representation is made up of the Indo-Aryans, the Mongoloids, the Dravidians and different tribal groups. So while you state that the percentage of European Americans is far greater than African Americans, Asians, Latino/Hispanic; the combined percentage of Americans who are not white equals 37% (census 2012). The census predicts that the diversity of the US will become a minority-majority by 2043 (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/census-whites-no-longer-a-majority-in-us-by-2043/) and our nation’s school systems have already reached the point of being minority-majorities (http://washingtonexaminer.com/public-schools-will-soon-be-majority-minority-and-thats-without-the-help-of-illegal-immigrants/article/2552148). Today’s children represent the present day and future movie ticket buyer. This is the reality we all live in.

  36. rgarcia406
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Violence in the Middle East does not change the glaring racial disparities in the US. Even if racial representation in media were to accurately reflect the US populace (which it doesn’t), it doesn’t change the fact that for most of US Media history, there have been few representations of POC/Women. If such things were the case, it wouldn’t be amazing every time a Person of Color won a major award.

    White people (specifically white men) won’t suddenly stop being represented in things. We would just like to see MORE People of Color and other underrepresented parties have their moment in the limelight.

  37. Connor
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Not sure whether this was previously stated in the comments, if it was I didn’t see it. But does Charles Xavier not count anywhere in this as being a protagonist with a disability in the more recent X-Men films? Also, just wondering whether or not Vin Diesel counts towards and of these protagonists of colour because he has starred in 3 sci-fi films that I know of, although they may not be in the top 100.


22 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male […]

  2. […] Lee and Imran Siddiquee visit Lee & Low Blog to discuss this issue: “Where’s the Diversity Hollywood? Sci Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male.” “Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and […]

  3. […] Source: blog.leeandlow.com […]

  4. […] Source: blog.leeandlow.com […]

  5. […] Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male | the open book: A cool infographic about 100 top-grossing science fiction and fantasy movies,  and interviews with two activists trying to improve representation. (29 July) […]

  6. […] do so again, as was par the course for Hollywood of the age (and not too sure how much that’s changed). But on this one, Mom was putting her foot down–much as she had insisted that The Dukes of […]

  7. […] also: Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male at LEE & LOW […]

  8. […] The original post featuring this graphic and a stellar interview can be found here. […]

  9. […] well, pretty much every movie ever. See this great infographic by Lee and Low Publishers about the diversity gap in sci-fi and fantasy […]

  10. […] well, pretty much every movie ever. See this great infographic by Lee and Low Publishers about the diversity gap in sci-fi and fantasy […]

  11. […] The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic Source: Lee And Low […]

  12. […] good folks at Lee & Low Books made this infographic (used with permission) to show that all the many different types of people in the world should get […]

  13. […] well, pretty much every movie ever. See this great infographic by Lee and Low Publishers about the diversity gap in sci-fi and fantasy […]

  14. […] They developed this infographic and conducted a fascinating interview with Marissa Lee, co-founder of Racebending.com and Imran Siddiquee, Director of Communications at the Representation Project. Check it out at leeandlow.com. […]

  15. […] * Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male. […]

  16. […] – The diversity gap in sci fi and fantasy films […]

  17. […] don’t think there are official surveys and statistics on the gaming subculture, but perhaps this study on the top 100 domestic grossing films in science-fiction and fantasy is an indication of similar trends in gaming: There are only eight protagonists of color in the […]

  18. […] don’t think there are official surveys and statistics on the gaming subculture, but perhaps this study on the top 100 domestic grossing films in science-fiction and fantasy is an indication of similar trends in gaming: There are only eight protagonists of color in the top […]

  19. […] drop the thought ein interessantes Interview (Englisch) über Diversität in Fantasy- und SciFi-Hollywoodblockbustern, und das zugehörige Formular zur Beurteilung von […]

  20. […] source: blog.leeandlow.com […]

  21. […] blockbuster roles. A recent study by children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books reveals that just eight of the top 100 best-selling sci-fi and fantasy films from Hollywood had a protagonist of … Worse, only two minority actors landed lead roles: Will Smith, who alone played six of those […]

  22. […] well, pretty much every movie ever. See this great infographic by Lee and Low Publishers about the diversity gap in sci-fi and fantasy […]

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