The 2017 Golden Globes: Standing for Diversity

January 5, 2018 Michael Paul Jackson

Insights from The Opportunity Agenda

The Golden Globe Awards are traditionally a time for celebrities to dress up, drink, and celebrate each other in a low-stakes, entertaining atmosphere for all the world to see. This year, the stakes might be a bit higher.

Promotional picture for the 75th Golden Globe Awards

The last 12 months have witnessed violent hate marchers in Charlottesville, a discriminatory Muslim travel ban, and threats to young immigrant Dreamers and asylum seekers that violated our nation’s core values. Many in Hollywood expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s divisive rhetoric and harmful policies. But new research from The Opportunity Agenda shows that Hollywood’s content is too often part of the problem. This year should be one in which the industry puts it storytelling where its mouth is.

Television programming should entertain us, it should make money, and it should capture our hopes, dreams, and experiences as a people. Not every television program or episode has to carry that weight, but when the same harmful and distorted images of immigrants and people of color are depicted repeatedly to hundreds of millions of viewers, those images become detrimental to the people they represent, and run counter to our national values.

 It’s also just bad television. It’s lazy and harmful to the bottom line in a country that’s growing increasingly more diverse.

As viewers, we need to demand more movie producers and network executives do the same, to help capture the imagination of new audiences.

The Opportunity Agenda released the Power of Pop report in 2017, which analyzed more than 40 randomly selected television shows from 2014 to 2016. Part of our goal was to understand how feelings and attitudes toward immigrants are impacted by the images and depictions displayed in mainstream television shows.

Many of our findings were not encouraging. Overall, we found that immigrants—despite making up 17 percent of the U.S. population— made up only six percent of the characters depicted on these shows. In addition, an astounding 50 percent of the Latino immigrants in our sample were depicted as involved in crime, while 38 percent were depicted as incarcerated.  The good news is we found that television comedies are where the most nuanced stories about immigrant lives can often be found, including shows like Netflix’s “Master of None” and ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.”

The stories and creators up for awards at this year’s Golden Globes illustrate that good news. For example, Aziz Ansari, the creator of “Master of None,” was nominated for two Golden Globes for the series, and Jordan Peele’s highly successful horror/comedy “Get Out” was nominated for a best picture award.

The popularity and economic viability of these stories show that audiences are demanding diverse stories. Indeed, UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center found that from 2012 and 2013, viewers preferred films and television shows with diverse casts, a finding that television network executives should look to emulate in the coming years.

And, as creators like Ansari and Peele both illustrate, more diverse writers and storytellers are a big part of the solution. They create new storylines, avoid tired, clichéd characters, and help depict the full lives of immigrants and people of color.

As viewers, we need to demand more movie producers and network executives do the same, to help capture the imagination of new audiences.


Additional Reading

Race in the Writers Room – Color of Change

2017 Hollywood Diversity Report -- Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies