Study Shows Hollywood Marginalizes Asians, with Less Than 6 Percent of Speaking Roles

Warner Bros./Disney/A24
Warner Bros./Disney/A24

Hollywood elites frequently smear conservatives as racists and bigots, but a new study has found that the entertainment industry continues to marginalize Asians, with Asian and Pacific Islanders accounting for less than 6 percent of speaking roles in Hollywood movies.

The study also concluded that less than 4 percent of Hollywood movies had Asians in a lead role. Major roles for Asian actors are so scarce that the study’s authors counted mixed-race stars including Dwayne Johnson, Keanu Reeves, and Hailee Steinfeld, even though some of them are less than a quarter Asian.

The study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzed speaking roles in movies over a 13-year period and found that only 3,034, or 5.9 percent, of those roles were Asian or Pacific Islander (API) characters. The percentage falls below the percentage of API people in the overall U.S. population, which stands at 7.1 percent.

Lead roles were even more scarce, with only 3.4 percent of 1,300 films analyzed featuring an API lead or co-lead. The study found 39 percent of movies surveyed had no API characters at all.

Researchers found that Hollywood also marginalizes Asians behind the scenes. Among the 1,447 directors who were credited across the 1,300 top-grossing movies from 2007 to 2019, only 3.5 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander.

The finding comes after filmmaker Chloe Zhao won the Oscar for best director for Nomadland. Zhao was born in China but resides in the U.S.

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