021 - Diversity in Hollywood and New Media, with Nisha Balsara

It’s no question. Film and television are two of the biggest culture shapers in our society. And images are more powerful than words. This is why so many are asking for wider visibility in these forms of media that properly reflects the diversity in the US. In this episode, Evan and Hannah talk with actor and YouTuber Nisha Balsara about how Hollywood is failing to give various groups the visibility they deserve on screen. Also discussed are representation in new media, vegans in TV shows, the shocking pay gap, and the positive changes this decade is already experiencing.

Nisha on Instagram

Nisha on YouTube

Here are some links to studies and articles that were cited in this episode.

"Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment"

  • 1/3 of speaking characters were female (33.5 percent)

  • 28.3 % of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups though such groups are nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.

  • 3.4% of film directors were female

  • 7% of films had a cast whose balance of race and ethnicity reflected the country's diversity

  • In broadcast TV, 17% of directors were female and 19 % of programs were ethnically balanced.


In all TV shows…

  • women of color over 40 were deemed "largely invisible" and just 22% of TV series creators were female.


  • half the films and TV shows they analyzed had no Asian speaking characters and more than 1/5 of them had no black characters with dialogue.

  • Just 2%  of speaking characters were identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, and more than half the LGBT characters in all the films they examined came from two movies.


  • When looking at how women are depicted, the study found female characters were four times more likely to be shown in sexy attire, three times more likely to show some nudity and nearly four times as likely to be referred to as physically attractive.


  • films and TV shows with women or people of color in the important jobs behind the scenes — director, producer or writer — tended to have better diversity numbers.

"It's about who is greenlighting those decisions and who is giving the okay for certain stories to be told," Smith says. "When a very narrow slice of the population is in control of power and has the ability to greenlight a project, then we are going to see products and stories that reflect that narrow worldview."

(Stacy L. Smith, one of the study's authors and founding director of the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism)


‘2016 Hollywood Diversity Report: Business as Usual” by the Ralph J. Bunch Center for African American Studies at UCLA

Concluded that...

American audiences prefer diverse film and television content

In 2014, people of color purchased 46 percent of all movie tickets sold in the United States.  


Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media’s report: Gender Bias without Borders: An investigation of female characters in popular films across 11 countries (2014)

  • 10% of all films have a gender balanced cast

  • 31% of speaking roles are occupied by women

  • 23% of films feature of female protagonist

  • When there is a female filmmaker, there is a 6.8% increase in the number of females on screen

  • Women are 5 times more likely to receive appearance based comments than men

  • Women are twice as likely to be shown in sexually revealing clothing or with some nudity

  • Fictional females aged 13 to 39 are equally sexualized

“Female executives are an endangered species in international films”

  • More men than women in onscreen STEM jobs (7:1)


The Reel Truth: Women Aren’t Seen or Heard

  • In films with male leads, male characters dominate the speaking time, but in films with female leads, men speak as much as women.

  • Films led by women grossed 15.8% more on average than films led by men.


Why is Hollywood still casting white actors in Asian roles?

Constance WU Doesn’t Want to be Your “It” Girl

Diego Luna Shares a ‘Star Wars’ Story That Will Bring Tears to Your Eyes

Music by Lee Rosevere and DJ Quads.