The study, released Tuesday by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, also found that there is a narrower range of Latino roles and fewer Latinos in the top billing compared to 70 years ago. The Latino presence in the English-language media, it found, also was small.
Latinos working both in front of and behind the camera grew slightly. When they are in front of the camera, the study found, more often than not they appear in roles that play to stereotypes, “either hyper-sexualized, as comic relief, and/or cheap labor.”
“The success of a few Latino stars has created a widespread perception that media diversity in the U.S. is significantly improving,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the study’s lead researcher. “But our findings indicate that, in some ways, it is getting worse.”
The study was created in collaboration with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and the National Latino Arts, Education and Media Institute (NLAEMI).
“Latinos are constantly portrayed with a broad brush—and the picture displayed is extremely limited,” said actor Esai Morales, NHFA co-founder and co-star on CBS’s Criminal Minds. “I call it the four H’s of Hollywood—Latinos are either cast as overly hormonal, overly hysterical, overly hostile or overly humble. Far too often, we’re supposed to be the spice on the side, rather than a central figure, a hero or leader. And that needs to change.”
Among the findings are that the presence of Latina actresses has risen slightly, but Latino men “have disappeared” as leading actors.
Between 2010 and 2013, Latino men did not play any leading roles in the top ten films, the study found. Latinas saw a small increase in roles as supporting and lead actresses.
Stereotypes of Latinos are alive and well in the entertainment industry. They tend to appear as criminals and cheap labor, the study said, adding: “The range of roles available to Latinos is narrower now than those available in earlier decades: nearly 50 percent of contemporary Latino roles on top 10 television shows are either criminals or law enforcers.”
The dearth of Latinos and opportunities for them persists despite efforts to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry, the study found.
Between 2010 and 2013, Latinos made up 4.1 percent of TV directors, 1.2 percent of producers, and 1.9 percent of writers, it said. In movies, Latinos accounted for 2.3 percent of movie directors, just over 2 percent of producers, and 6 percent of writers.
And there are no Latino CEOs, presidents or owners of a major English-language network or studio.
“The scale of Latino media exclusion is stunning,” said Negrón-Muntaner. “Just imagine that any references to the entire state of California (38 million people) and Illinois (12.8 million), or the combined states of New York, Florida and Pennsylvania (49.8 million), were eliminated from our media culture. That would be deeply troubling, and so is this.”