Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

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?

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Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards will soon unveil the very best in filmmaking in 2014. As the prediction chatter ricochets around the web, our curiosity about the level of racial and gender representation of the Academy Awards is the focus of our next Diversity Gap study. We reviewed the Academy’s entire 85-year history and the results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of The Tony AwardsThe Emmy Awardsthe children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and US politics, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

Academy Award infographic
Academy Award infographic (click for larger image)

Since the Academy Awards was founded 85-years ago:

  • Only one woman of color (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actress
  • Only seven men of color (9%) have ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor
  • Only one woman (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director

An interview with independent filmmakers helps give a glimpse of the current climate of Hollywood today.

Gina Prince-Bythewood
Gina Prince-Bythewood
is a writer/director for television and film. Her credits include Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and the upcoming film Blackbird, which will be released November 14, 2014.


Iyin Landre is an American actress/filmmaker currently living in Río de Janeiro, Brazil. Her first feature film, Me + You, is now in pre-production.

Jason Chan

Jason Chan is an Australian actor/writer/director and one of the founding partners of BananaMana Films, a creative production company based in Singapore. BananaMana recently completed its first thirteen-episode TV drama, What Do Men Want?, and is gearing up to start season two and a film in 2014.

Kelvin YuKelvin Yu is a Taiwanese American writer currently working on the Fox animated series Bob’s Burgers. A Los Angeles native, Yu studied theater and communications at UCLA. His acting credits include Milk, Star Trek, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, and The Shield. He also has a small white dog named Yuki that used to live in New York. Neither of them is fixed.


Jason Low: Gina, since writing and directing your independent film Love and Basketball, how has the climate of filmmaking changed? Is it easier or more difficult to get a film made that captures your ideals AND that is more accurately representative from a gender and minority perspective? 

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Illustrator Christiane Krömer Takes Us Behind the Art of King For A Day

Just released last month, our newest picture book, King For a Day, takes readers on a colorful journey through the spring kite festival Basant. From a rooftop in Lahore, Pakistan, Malik is determined to take his kite Falcon out and win the most kite battles to earn the title of “King of Basant.”

Illustrator Christiane Krömer used paper and fabric collage to create the gorgeous illustrations you see below:

Christiane KrömerI always take photos of the many stages. That way I can see what a picture looked like earlier on, experiment with many choices and then maybe go back to an earlier option. The fun with collage is that you can always push all the paper pieces and fabrics around until they are in the right spot. But there is also a big danger that all the 1000 loose pieces go flying, so it’s a good idea to have a photo that tells you exactly how it was when it looked good. I always have real fun to look at all the stages once the illustrations are finished. I hope you do, too.

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Where’s the Diversity? The NY Times Top 10 Bestsellers List

As we near the end of the 2013, we enter the season when major newspapers and magazines release their “Best of [enter year] lists”. So naturally we were curious about the level of representation of authors of color in last year’s New York Times Top 10 Bestsellers list. We chose to look at their most general bestsellers list, Combined Print & E-Book Fiction (adult), and looked at the top ten books for all 52 weeks of 2012. The results were staggering, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Academy AwardsThe Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, and US politics, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

NY Times Bestseller List infographic
NY Times Bestseller List infographic (click for larger image)

A few noteworthy facts we discovered while conducting the study:

  • Only three out of the 124 authors who appeared on the list during 2012 are people of color
  • No African American authors made the Top 10 Bestsellers list that we looked at in 2012
  • Of the three books/book series by authors of color that made the list, only one contains a main character of color (Eva Tramell of the Crossfire series is part Latina)

An interview with author Charles Yu (below) helps give a glimpse of life as a living and working author of color in today’s marketplace.

Charles Yu

Charles Yu is the author of three books, including How to Live Safely in a guest blog iconScience Fictional Universe, which was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. His latest is Sorry Please Thank You, which was named one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Charles can find him on Twitter @charles_yu

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Whitewashing Book Covers: A Trip to Barnes & Noble Part II

Allie Jane BruceAllie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. She guest bloggerbegan her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute. She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs at Bank Street College.

Part 1 | Part 2

Students contemplated book covers
Students contemplated book covers

Over the course of the last academic year, I co-taught a year-long unit that allowed a sixth-grade class to explore prejudices in books and the book industry. After studying how book covers and content can marginalize groups (we studied treatments of race, ethnicity, gender, body image, sexuality, class, ability, and more), we took a field trip to Barnes & Noble—by far my favorite piece of the project. The kids exited the store with steam issuing from their ears.Society is almost afraid of putting a dark-skinned or Asian character on the cover of a book.

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Whitewashing Book Covers: What Do Kids Think? Part I

Allie Jane BruceAllie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. She guest bloggerbegan her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute. She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs for Bank Street College.

Part 1 | Part 2
In my first year as Children’s Librarian at Bank Street, I worked with two teachers on a project that allowed sixth-graders to explore implicit and explicit biases in publishing. Using book covers as a starting point for discussion, we engaged in conversations about identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, body image, class, and ability as they relate to books and beyond.It started when my co-worker, Jamie Steinfeld, asked me to booktalk some realistic fiction for her sixth-grade Humanities class. A girl asked a question about Return To Sender“Why is there a bird on the cover?”—and we were off. Good question! Yes, the hardcover does have a bird. And does anyone notice anything about the paperback? See how the boy has his face turned toward us, and we can see his blond hair, but the girl from Mexico has her back to us and we can’t tell what race she is? What’s up with that?

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Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing

Literary agents make up a big part of the publishing machine. Most publishers no longer consider unsolicited submissions, so an agent is a must if you even want to get your foot in the door. Each year, agents review many promising manuscripts and portfolios so it is safe to say they have a good sense of who makes up the talent pool of children’s book publishing. So what kind of diversity are agents seeing? Being that the number of diverse books has not increased in the last eighteen years, in order to understand why this problem persists we decided to ask the gatekeepers.

Adriana DomínguezAdriana Domínguez is an agent at Full Circle Literary, a boutique literary agency based in San Diego and New York City, offering a unique full circle approach to literary representation. The agency’s experience in book publishing includes editorial, marketing, publicity, legal, and rights, and is used to help build authors one step at a time. Full Circle works with both veteran and debut writers and artists, and has a knack for finding and developing new and diverse talent.

Karen GrencikAbigail  SamounKaren Grencik and Abigail Samoun own Red Fox Literary, a boutique agency representing children’s book authors and illustrators. They offer a dazzling array of talents among their roster of clients, including New York Times and Time magazine Best Book winners, and some of the most promising up-and-coming talents working in the field today. The agency is closed to unsolicited submissions but it does accept queries from attendees at conferences where they present or through industry referrals.

Lori NowickiLori Nowicki is founder of Painted Words, a literary agency that represents illustrators and authors in the children’s publishing marketplace and beyond. Their goal is to provide the utmost in representation for illustrators and writers while placing a unique emphasis on developing characters, books, and licensed properties.

Do you receive many submissions from authors and illustrators of color? Overall, what percentage of authors and illustrators who submit to you are people of color? Note: Estimations are fine.

AD/Full Circle: I honestly wouldn’t know about percentages, but our agency receives a good number of submissions from authors of color. Proportionally, our agency represents more authors of color than most others. Authors and illustrators who are familiar with our work and/or visit our website know that we welcome diverse points of view, and see that diversity represented in our client list. I will say that I have personally felt for a very long time that there are simply not enough illustrators of color in the marketplace, and I am not quite sure why that is. I am usually very enthusiastic when I receive a query from a talented author/illustrator of color—I wish we received more of those! As a general rule, our agency represents illustrators who are also writers, and such people are difficult to find under any circumstances, as not everyone is equally good at both.I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color

AS/Red Fox Literary: It’s hard to tell how many submissions come from authors and illustrators of color. Most of the time, I haven’t met these authors and illustrators in person so the only way for me to tell what their ethnicity might be is by their name and their choice of subjects, but these can be misleading. I once made an offer on a picture book about an African American family, told in language with a jazzy rhythm, by an author with an African American sounding name and she turned out to be a white librarian. I’d made the assumption, based on the subject and the author’s name, that she would be African American.

Oftentimes, the question of the author’s ethnicity doesn’t enter my mind—unless the subject relates to race, in which case I’ll wonder if the author will have the life experience that can provide a genuine insider’s point-of-view. I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color.

KG/Red Fox Literary: I have four authors of color on my list of 38 authors, but like Abi says, we never know the ethnicity of an author when they submit to us. The only way I could imagine to gauge it would be by determining how many authors of color attend an SCBWI conference at which I present, comparing that number to the total number of attendees, and then assuming the ratio of submissions to be a similar percentage. At the recent summer conference in LA, I would guesstimate that authors of color made up about 35% of the total number of attendees.Less than one percent of the submissions I receive reflect people of color in the samples.

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Where’s the Diversity? 5 Reasons Why the US Government Isn’t More Diverse

In our previous diversity studies on the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book field, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and the Tony Awards, we interviewed people who actively work in television, publishing, and the theater. We attempted to duplicate this approach for our diversity study on US politics, but with the government shutdown, none of the twelve Congresspeople we contacted responded to our efforts to reach out to them. However, we think the numbers speak for themselves:

Diversity Gap in American Politics infographic
Diversity Gap in American Politics infographic (click for larger image)

So we have applied a different approach for this study. We have identified five main obstacles standing between the diverse US population and a government that is more representative of the actual population. If you can think of other reasons, please leave them in the comments section below.

1. Gerrymandering
We live in an era in which both political parties are becoming more extreme and states are becoming more and more polarized. In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering, the process of dividing an area into districts to give one political party an electoral advantage over the other, is partly to blame. Both parties have played around with district borders countless times, producing polarized voter blocks.

“We are a complex country,” says Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote.org, but the current system creates “a funhouse mirror distortion of who we are that channels us into two narrow, doctrinaire groupings.”
{Read full article}

Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering example from print edition of Rolling Stone Magazine-10/10/13

“Lawmakers no longer need to appeal to the political ‘middle’ to try to win general elections, but must instead deliver only to their own party’s true believers,” writes Luisa Ch. Savage in Maclean’s, a Canadian current affairs magazine.

However, many political experts say that the polarization goes much deeper. Gerrymandering doesn’t affect Senators (you can’t redraw state lines), but the Senate is just as polarized as the House. This points to increasing polarization of states. “There used to be a great many states that were very competitive in national elections. In 1976, almost half the states in the union came within 3 points of the nationwide vote in the presidential election. A more impressive 30-plus states were within 5pt. Today, the numbers aren’t even close to that,” writes Harry J. Enten in The Guardian.

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True or False? Multicultural Books Don’t Sell

We Are the Problem, We Are the Solution

Elizabeth BluemieElizabeth Bluemle is the co-owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT.

As an independent bookseller, former school librarian, and lifelong avid reader, I crave the day when publishing lists are as Guest Bloggerdiverse and rich as the playgrounds of our nation, and the conversation about representations of diversity in children’s literature is as unnecessary as the question of whether or not women should vote. Until that happens, there is no discussion more vital in the children’s book world than how to bring our industry at every level in line with America’s diversity.

I’ve written about this subject often over the last several years, for Publishers Weekly’s Shelftalker blog and the CCBC Diversity Committee blog, and while it seems we are, as a whole, talking a lot more about these issues within the field, and while there have been some increase in the number of mainstream children’s books featuring kids of color, we are still so far behind.

The problem is systemic and deeply rooted and requires change at every level, from the publishing houses to artists and writers to booksellers, educators, and [A]dults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children.consumers. We booksellers have more opportunity to effect change than we might imagine. People entrust us with book recommendations from individual purchases to helping plan school curricula on a grand scale, and this affords us the most amazing opportunity to be aware of what we are recommending. One of the challenges inherent in selling children’s books is that we usually have to go through one or two levels of gatekeepers to reach a book’s intended audience, the child reader. We are selling to teachers and librarians, and to parents and other adult family and friends.

In my seventeen years as a bookseller and three years as a school librarian before that, if there’s one thing I have noticed, it’s that we adults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children. Time and time again, at the bookstore and at children’s book festivals, I have observed white children picking up books with kids of color on the cover, and heard adults express surprise at the choice. “Are you sure you want that one?” they’ll ask. Or, “Wouldn’t you like this book instead?” It’s not the kids who are the problem. Kids really, really, really only care about a great story. In twenty years of connecting children with books they love, I have only seen one child—ONE!—balk at a book cover because the main character was a different race from her own. It’s the adults who underestimate a child’s ability or desire to see beyond race.

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Where’s the Diversity? A Look at the Emmy Awards and TV

Publishing diverse children’s books for more than two decades has given us a unique perspective when it comes to diversity. While our mission is to bring more diverse books to children, we hope our efforts as activists keep the wider conversation on race and inequality in the spotlight. Our other Diversity Gap studies on the Tony Awards, the children’s book industryUS politics, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller list, and the Academy Awards revealed a disturbing trend in ethnic and gender representation. We decided to focus on the television industry next.

Diversity Gap Emmy Awards infographic
Emmy Awards infographic (click for larger image)

Our Diversity Gap study on the Emmy Awards was the logical choice for objectively looking at the small screen. Since the Emmys will be presented on September 22, 2013, we collected data to see if a diversity gap exists in television. See our infographic above for Emmy related facts like:

  • No woman of color has ever won an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series
  • In the last twenty years, winners in the Best Director of a Comedy Series were 100% white and 95% male
  • An African American woman has not been nominated for lead actress in a Comedy Series since The Cosby Show (1986)

We implemented the methodology we have used previously, with the help of the Writer’s Guild of America West, and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with two talented writer/actors. Their combined insights into the mechanism behind making television illuminate why the lack of diversity in casting and writing remains a very real, very complex problem.

Luisa Leschin

Luisa Leschin definitely believes in the richness of diversity. She has enjoyed four very successful careers: ballet dancer, actress, voice-over artist and television script writer. Her writing credits include The George Lopez Show and Everybody Hates Chris. She is currently developing a children‘s sitcom pilot with EOne Entertainment with a theme of healthy living and is writing a pilot about Latino millennials called Homies.

Kelvin Yu Kelvin Yu is a Taiwanese-American writer currently working on the Fox animated series Bob’s Burgers. A Los Angeles native, Yu studied theater and communications at UCLA. His acting credits include Milk, Star Trek, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, and The Shield. He also has a small white dog named Yuki who used to live in New York. Neither of them are fixed.

Luisa, what types of roles were you being cast for when you were an actress?

LL: I was lucky enough to be a working actress during the 1980s and early 1990s. I started my career in New York, where I studied with Uta Hagen, a legendary actress and teacher. I speak un-accented English, but judging from my auditions, I soon realized that I better work on my Mexican, Cuban, Guatemalan, Colombian, and Puerto Rican spitfire accents because those were the only roles for which I was being considered. I remember walking onto the set of Hill Street Blues, where I was playing the pregnant girlfriend of a gang member. We had just been arrested. My fellow “actor” introduced himself to me and asked me how many times I had been arrested, because he’d been arrested twice! Toward the end of my on-camera career, I did a “role-count” and discovered that I had played a pregnant woman (in various stages of delivery) no less than six times, hookers, maids, gang-girlfriends, and as I got older, gang-girlfriend’s mothers . . . and not much else.People are just ‘writing what they know,’ which can be a virtue while simultaneously a tragedy.

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