New report details low Asian and Pacific Islander representation in Hollywood

·3-min read
Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images

A new Hollywood report has come out that has shined a light on just how little people from Asian and Pacific Island communities have been featured either on-screen or behind the camera.

The study – titled 'The Prevalence and Portrayal of Asian and Pacific Islanders across 1,300 Popular Films' and detailed in Variety – looked at the 1,300 top grossing films released between 2007 and 2019, and the results are staggering.

Of those movies, only 44 of them had an Asian or Pacific Islander in the leading role, with 14 of those films being led by Dwayne Johnson. Another five of them are led by Keanu Reeves, who has a Chinese-Hawaiian father but is visually white-passing. Only six of these 44 movies are led by a woman of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.

Photo credit: Samir Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Samir Hussein - Getty Images

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Across the 1,300 movies, the study stated that 94.2% of them didn't feature any Pacific Islanders, 40.2% of them didn't feature any Asian characters, combining to make 39% of films featuring neither.

The study claims that there are 51,159 speaking characters across the list of films featured. Out of that numbers, only 5.9% of them were API, compared to the 7.1% of people in the United States that identify as API. Of that percentage, the study claims that only 13% of those roles were fleshed out characters, as opposed to stereotypical or shallow roles.

Behind the cameras, numbers were even lower for API directors (3.5%), casting directors (3.3%), and producers (2.5%). Not a single API woman was credited as the sole director of any of these 1,300 movies.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

"The numbers speak for themselves. They are a sobering look at how far the industry still has to go to counter the invisibility of our community onscreen," states actor Daniel Dae Kim (who previously opened up about worrying if his Lost character was "problematic").

"If anything is to improve, the historic indifference on the part of decision makers toward increased Asian American representation must go beyond the usual performative rhetoric to actual, demonstrable change."

Daniel Dae Kim's Hellboy role (who was Asian in the source material) was originally cast with white actor Ed Skrein before a whitewashing backlash, highlighting why representation is so low.

Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Kovac - Getty Images

The last few months have seen a number of protests and stars speaking out against racism and hatred against Asian people, including BTS, Sandra Oh, and Gemma Chan, among many others.

A UK-based ESEA Community Fund has been set up on GoFundMe, and has raised over £77,000 of a £100,000 goal at the time of writing. You can donate to it right here.

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