Hispanics are the largest, fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., with a current population of around 55 million, representing over 17% of the total. U.S. Hispanic spending power is climbing
fast, now closing in on $1.5 trillion. As such, marketers and media companies are focusing more on this promising target audience.
Yet portrayals of Hispanics in American mainstream
media remain narrow, stereotyped and simplistic, and Hispanic participation in other aspects of the media business remains low, according to a new report on “The Latino Media Gap”
commissioned by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.
The report noted that Latino characters in movies and TV shows still tend to be depicted as “criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor and hypersexualized beings.”
For example, in 2012-2013, 24.2% of Hispanic TV characters were linked to crime, up from just 6% in 1994. By the same token, 36.6% of Hispanic TV characters have been involved in law enforcement
over the same period -- and since 1996, a remarkable 69% of maids in TV and films have been played by Latinas.
To the degree that Latinos hold leading or supporting roles in films and
TV shows, there is a strong gender bias, as Latina women have largely eclipsed Latino men. Latinas accounted for 4.6% of all female lead actors in films from 2000-2013. During this time not a single
Latino male held a lead role. Also, Latinas made up 9.6% of supporting actress roles, while Latino males made up less than 3%.
Behind the scenes, Latinos made up just 1.1% of
producers for the top 10 TV shows, 2% of writers and 4.1% of directors. The numbers for the top 10 movies were 2.2%, and 6%, and 2.3%, respectively. There are no Latino heads of studios, network
presidents, CEOs, or owners.
Turning to news, just 1.8% of news producers are Latinos, which may help explain why stories about Latinos make up less than 1% of news media coverage.