Thursday's New York Times delivered yet another summer-movie bummer from Manohla Dargis, the paper's most doctrinaire liberal movie critic, eclipsing even left-wing Stephen Holden. Dargis, previously stuck on counting the number of women in movies, is expanding her film interests to include counting old people, gays, and minorities. It's a non-stop thrill ride: "Report Finds Wide Diversity Gap Among 2014’s Top-Grossing Films."
The print headline was spunkier, if even more politicized: "Young, White and Male? The Role Is Yours."
The numbers are stunning: From 2007 through 2014, women made up only 30.2 percent of all speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films released in the United States. That’s bad enough to repeat: For every 2.3 male characters who say “Dude,” there is just one woman saying, “Hello?!”
That is one of the findings in a study, “Inequality in 700 Popular Films,” being released on Wednesday, that looks at gender, race, ethnicity and what one of the report’s researchers, Stacy L. Smith, describes as an “epidemic” when it comes to lack of diversity. The report was produced by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Dargis did a deep dive into the "misrepresentation" in the movies:
The movies are white: 73.1 percent of all the speaking or named characters in the top 100 movies were white.
The movies are straight: Only 19 total characters were lesbian, gay or bisexual -- none were transgender.
The movies are young: Only 19.9 percent of female characters were 40 to 64 years old.
The movies are male: Only 1.9 percent of the movies were directed by women.
Dargis actually encouraged the force of law to help rectify the situation in Hollywood, presumably to forcibly insert more women and minority characters into movie scripts.
The “Inequality” report comes at a time of increasing criticism about the industry’s on-screen and off-screen practices, giving further empirical support to what has become a steady stream of righteous complaint. In May, the American Civil Liberties Union sent letters to state and federal agencies seeking an investigation of the hiring practices of the major Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies. That same month, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, and four other female senators sent a letter to the major studios asking them to respond to an earlier Annenberg/University of Southern California study that found that only 4.1 percent of top-grossing films over the last decade had female directors.
Dargis predictably praised Every Single Word, a website whose owner, Dylan Marron finds it worth his precious time on earth to clip the amount of non-white characters in things like the "Lord of the Rings" movies, a medieval fantasy series set in an imaginary world.
....moviegoers are doing their activist part, as exemplified by Every Single Word, a Tumblr by Dylan Marron that uses videos to underline the (often few) words spoken by nonwhite movie characters. What Every Single Word underscores is that the roles often available to nonwhite performers -- think of the ubiquitous black friend, the Latina waitress and the Asian storekeeper -- are often little more than casting tokenism....
The question now for anyone who loves movies is obvious: What next?
Stop reading Manohla Dargis?