Hollywood consistently marginalizes Muslims in its movies and tends to reduce them to stereotypes when the industry does acknowledge their existence, according to a new study.
Among the 100 top-grossing U.S. films released between 2017 and 2019, only 1.1 percent of the characters were Muslim, according to a new USC Annenberg study titled “Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies.”
The study, which was conducted by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, also analyzed 200 “popular films” released during those years in four countries – the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. It found 91 percent of the 200 films didn’t feature a single Muslim character.
Researchers concluded that when Muslims were portrayed on screen, 39 percent of primary and secondary Muslim characters were depicted as perpetrators of violence, and more than half of them were targeted by violence. More than 62 percent of them faced racist or religious slurs or undertones.
“Muslims, both on screen and off, have been constrained to a narrative that normalizes them as violent and positions their faith as related to extremism,” the study said.
The report also found that 19 percent of Muslim primary and secondary characters died by the end of their respective movies.
In a statement accompanying the study, Oscar-nominated Sound of Metal star Riz Ahmed said negative on-screen representation of Muslims can lead to real-world consequences.
“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” the British actor said. “The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives.”
Despite being overwhelmingly liberal, Hollywood is facing criticism for its lack of on-screen diversity. A similar study recently found the entertainment industry continues to marginalize Asians, with Asian and Pacific Islanders accounting for less than 6 percent of speaking roles in Hollywood movies.