Writers' Strike Exposes Startling Inequality for Latino Writers in Hollywood

Image from the 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The most recent Latino Donor Collaborative report has highlighted the lack of Latino representation in television and film, with numbers dropping back down to 2019 levels. Despite being the largest minority in the U.S., Latinos continue to be the most underrepresented group in the media industry, making up only 9.29 percent of onscreen representation in streaming, 2.33 percent on cable, and 5.42 percent on broadcast.

The report identified several streaming and premium cable networks that had zero Latino leads across their several programs in 2022, including HGTV, Discovery, TLC, and HBO. Meanwhile, Netflix had only two Latin leads across its 124 series, and AppleTV+ had just one in its 44 shows.

The report also looked at 10 future-themed movies released between 2014 and 2023, none of which included a Latino star, co-star, director, or screenwriter. This finding highlights the need for more diversity in the representation of future narratives and the marginalization of Latino voices in the genre.

In a recent interview with Luz Media, Dr. Christina-Ana Ramón, co-author of the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Film, stated, “Black and Indigenous People of Color really are the drivers of success for the film industry in particular, and in TV, they are really driving the success of streaming content.” Yet despite audiences of color driving financial success for these entertainment companies, the Latino talent behind and in front of the camera hasn’t increased in numbers. Dr. Ramón continued, “BIPOC audiences are the reason [during the pandemic] that the film industry survived. How has Hollywood responded? In a lot of ways, they have only responded by doing the least amount that they feel they did something.”

Accurate representation is critical to dispel stereotypes and promote positive social change. Without meaningful efforts to increase Latino representation, the industry continues to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and the marginalization of the Latino community, while raking in record profits. Netflix, for example, raked in 5.11 billion dollars in profit in 2021.

Latine Voices Silenced in Hollywood Amidst Writers' Strike

The ongoing Writers' Strike in Hollywood has sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, leaving millions of fans wondering when their favorite shows will return to the screen. But this strike isn't just about getting writers back to work; it's a call to arms for better compensation and working conditions for these essential members of the entertainment ecosystem.

For Latinos, it’s also an opportunity to highlight the striking underrepresentation that exists among writers. The Latino Donor Collaborative report also found that Latino screenwriters and directors in 2021 only made up 6.9 percent of those in the industry, and both dropped below a shocking 3 percent in 2022.

Over 11,500 film and television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have taken a stand, demanding higher minimum compensation, addressing the use of "mini rooms," and regulating the use of artificial intelligence and other technologies. Talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have stalled, leaving writers with no choice but to take action.

But what's really driving this strike? The rise of streaming services has disrupted the traditional way of doing things in the entertainment industry and residuals - once a reliable source of income for writers - have been significantly impacted. As a result, negotiations have been ongoing for six months, with the threat of a strike looming for weeks.

The strike will significantly impact the entertainment industry, affecting everything from late-night shows to soap operas to the fall television season. But the impact will be more subtle than that; even finished scripts may need rewrites on set, and without writers on hand, those changes could be impossible to make.

International writers are doing their part to show support too. The Australian, British, and Canadian film and T.V. unions have advised their members to refrain from taking on projects that fill in for U.S. writers. This conveys the message that writers' compensation and working conditions must be taken seriously.

At its core, this strike is a wake-up call for the entertainment industry. It's a reminder that writers are vital to the creative process and deserve fair compensation and treatment. The issues of streaming residuals and the use of artificial intelligence are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s no telling how long the strike will last, but until then, Hollywood will be left without a large part of the creative engine that makes their record profits possible.

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