Actress Geena Davis, NBCUniversal to Use ‘Bias’ Technology to Examine Black Representation

Geena Davis arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Actress Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media — which researches gender representation in media, and advocates for more representation of women — is teaming up with NBCUniversal to expand the organization’s “Spellcheck for Bias” to analyze black, Asian, and Pacific Islander representation.

Spellcheck for Bias is a digital tool that analyzes scripts and identifies characters by gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and body type. The tool also measures the percentage of dialogue by demographic identity, as well as pick up on violence, discrimination, and intelligence.

NBCUniversal and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media are now expanding their Spellcheck for Bias partnership to analyze how black, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander people and characters are hired and portrayed, according to a report by the Hollywood Reporter.

The move comes after NBCU used Spellcheck for Bias to flag stereotypes, tropes, and casting opportunities pertaining to Latino characters, which resulted in the media company making changes to 20 percent of the scripts it tested during tool’s pilot phase.

The tool was reportedly fed nearly 20 film and television scripts currently in development across the company — including Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Universal TV, and Telemundo.

“We are encouraged by the impact this research pilot has already made across our company and the industry,” Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer said.

Beetle Juice star Geena Davis added that she is “heartened by NBCUniversal’s commitment and ongoing dedication to systemically improve Latino, Latina, black, and AAPI representation in their content companywide.”

NBCU’s Global Talent Development and Inclusion group will now put together a team of advisors to devise the research criteria for black and AAPI representation, reports Hollywood Reporter.

The goal is to continue developing Spellcheck for Bias to include more and more “historically excluded groups,” the report adds.

“Solving the complex issues of inclusivity and equity throughout the entertainment industry requires fresh, authentic and innovative perspectives from inside and outside the studio system,” NBCU Executive Vice President of Inclusion — Talent and Content Janine Jones-Clark said.

Spellcheck for Bias has also reportedly partnered with Disney in 2019 to screen for so-called gender bias.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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