Happy kids in the park

Kids of color trending upward on screen

Fun fact: Movies with diverse casting lead the box office. We break down the Geena Davis Institute's findings on race.
October 1, 2019

In part two of the Geena Davis Institute’s report on children’s television and film, the study found that white characters still own the lion’s share of screentime.

Despite leads and co-leads of color increasing steadily in children’s television since 2011, white characters still account for 74% of leading characters.

When the protagonist is a person of color, the majority of those characters are Black, followed by Latinx and Asian. Southeast Asian, mixed race characters, Indigenous and Middle Eastern characters are very minimally portrayed. For supporting characters, 71% are white, and for minor characters, 78.5% are white.

While representation is poor, the analysis found that when characters are diverse, the race gap doesn’t exist in screen time—characters of color receive as much screen time as white characters.

And, positively, there was no visible difference in treatment regarding stereotypes, employment in STEM careers and leadership positions for both diverse and white characters. In terms of character traits, characters of color are portrayed as intelligent more often than white characters, while white characters are more likely to be funny.

The highest percentage of leads of color in the last decade are found in children’s films. People of color make up 28.8% of all leads, and, in order of appearance, Black, Latinx, Southeast Asian, Asian, Indingenous, Middle Eastern and mixed race. People of color remain underrepresented in supporting roles and as minor characters.

In this category, there weren’t racial differences in stereotypes, characters of color are more likely to have an occupation, more likely to be employed in the military and employed in a STEM field. Characters of color are more likely to be shown as intelligent and equally as funny.

When it comes to dollars, children’s films with white and people of color co-leads generate the highest revenue at the domestic box office. In 2018, children’s films with leads of color grossed their highest amount of the last decade.

In popular films for both kids and adults, the results are similar—72% of leads and co-leads in the top-grossing films of last year were white, with the protagonists of color depicted by Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous and South Asian, in order of representation. They are also underrepresented as supporting characters and minor characters. When they are on-screen, they seen as more hard working than their white counterparts, more likely to have an occupation, notably in a criminal occupation, and portrayed as intelligent, but not as funny as white characters.

Read all of our coverage on the “See Jane 2019” report. 

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