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Latinos in Hollywood: Few Roles, Frequent Stereotypes, New Study Finds

A study on racial, ethnic and gender diversity by USC Annenberg found few movies and TV shows are made by or feature Latinos and Hispanics.
Image: John Krasinski, Cheryl Boone Isaacs
FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2016 file photo, John Krasinski, left, and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the Academy Awards nominations for best performance by an actor in a leading role at the 88th Academy Awards nomination ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif. Chris Pizzello / AP

Latinos may be the most avid movie goers in the country, but chances are they won’t be seeing many Hispanics on screen.

A study released Monday by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism exhaustively researched racial, ethnic and gender diversity on screen and behind cameras. The results found most stories "fail to represent the demographic composition of the U.S."

The study, which is called the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, found Latinos are among the least represented speaking roles in film and TV, even though they make up about 17.4 percent of the U.S. population. Out of more than 11,000 speaking characters surveyed in film and TV, 5.8 percent were Hispanic or Latino.

"For the past 10 years, we have quantified disturbing patterns around the lack of media representation concerning females and people of color in film," the authors stated in the report. "Despite elevated awareness around this issue, the numbers have not budged."

RELATED: Latinos Are The Most Underrepresented Ethnic Group in Film

Felix Sánchez, co-founder of the National Hispanics Foundation for the Arts, said the report reiterates a pattern he has seen in Hollywood for 20 years. He said on-screen representation, and whether or not a character even gets named, starts in predominantly white writers' rooms.

"It all depends on who is in the writer's room because they control the words and images the actors produce," Sánchez told NBC Latino. "When you don’t have diverse writers, you won't have three-dimensional minority characters."

There is also a notable gender disparity when it comes to onscreen Latino-speaking characters. Fewer than 38 percent of the actresses are Latina, and according to the report, they are the most sexualized identifiable minority group.

"When Latinos are represented, they just play stereotypes," Sánchez said. "If the casting continues to portray a very singular look for Latinos, then that means women continue to be overly sexualized and [men] equally have to be the dominant, macho role."

RELATED: Latinos Are Biggest Moviegoers, Yet Few Roles In Top Movies

Sánchez points out representation and diversity changes depending on the medium, as is seen in the report. While less than 27 percent of series regulars in broadcast television were from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, the number edges up to almost 30 percent for series on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

"The narrower the audience, the more it seems minorities play leading roles," Sanchez said. "The broader the roles, the less likely it is that Latinos are included in lead roles."

If there is a greater percentage of Latinos on narrower platforms, they don’t have a chance to build a high, national image, Sanchez said. Leaving Latinos on the periphery of entertainment is a contributing factor to #OscarsSoWhite, he added.

"This is another excellent report that details what the last 10 reports have said, which is that there is an institutional exclusion of minorities in the U.S. entertainment industry," Sanchez said. "... There has been relatively little impetus for change."

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