Universal will employ digital technology to “spellcheck” scripts for onscreen Latinx representation as part of the studio’s ongoing effort to boost “inclusive storytelling for all underrepresented groups.”
The Comcast-owned Universal announced Wednesday that it will conduct a pilot program of the “Spellcheck for Bias” software developed by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.
Universal is the second major Hollywood studio to test drive the application. Davis, the star of A League of Their Own and Thelma & Louise, said in October that the Walt Disney Company will be using the software to analyze scripts to determine if stories are gender balanced.
Under the new pilot program, Universal’s movie and TV divisions will submit scripts that will be used to test the technology. The groups include Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Focus Features, and NBC Entertainment.
Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that increasing “Latinx portrayals onscreen is one of our top priorities,” adding that the studio is making strides toward “more inclusive storytelling for all underrepresented groups.”
“Latinx” is the gender-neutral descriptor for people of Latin American descent. The term has become popular among progressives and members of the mainstream media who are concerned that the term “Latino” is sexist.
Davis told the trade magazine that her institute’s upcoming study titled See Jane 2020 found that across the 100 highest-grossing films in the U.S., Latinx Americans made up just 4.7 percent of characters while accounting for 18.3 percent of the actual U.S. population, according to 2010 census figures.
“I believe our Spellcheck for Bias is going to be the biggest game changer of all in creating onscreen inclusion and will help NBCUniversal and other studios identify opportunities to dramatically increase Latinx representations in their content, to counteract the conscious and unconscious bias in all of us,” the actress said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Davis received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar for her advocacy for gender equality in media.
The Spellcheck for Bias project will also involve actress Kate del Castillo and America Ferrera’s company Harness as advisors to help fine tune the software.