Asian and Pacific Islanders account for less than 6% of speaking roles and less than 4% of leads and co-leads in Hollywood films, a study from USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has found. To make matters worse, the study shows that Hollywood peddles damaging stereotypes about Asian Americans. The study comes amid a tide of rising violence against Asian Americans.
The study looked at 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007-2019. Of the 1,300 films, only 44, or 3.4%, had an API lead or co-lead, with Dwayne Johnson, Keanu Reeves and Jon Cho garnering the most lead roles in the period, and Constance Wu and Hailee Steinfeld scoring the most lead/co-lead roles with two each.
White male actors were more likely to lead or co-lead a Hollywood film than an API actor by a ratio of 15.3:1, and 84:1 compared to API women. In fact, the study says that “actors named Ben, Chris, Daniel, James, Jason, John, Josh, Michael, Robert, Sean, or Tom were more likely to be hired as the top actor in a film than any API female actor with any name auditioning in all of Hollywood.”
API characters were also more likely to be sidekicks, villains or tokens stripped of romantic and familial relationships.
Behind the scenes, only 3.5% of the directors credited were API.