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30/11/2011

New Study Calls For More Accurate Portrayal Of Minority Groups In Film

A major new study into film has revealed that the majority of the UK population believes more needs to be done to create an authentic portrayal of the country's diverse audiences that includes older women and minority ethnic groups.
The independent study undertaken by global research agency, Harris Interactive, on behalf of the UK Film Council – who funded the Oscar -winning film, The King's Speech - surveyed 4,315 people to uncover their views and opinions about the portrayal of diverse groups in film. The research incorporated specific groups including older women, minority ethnic groups, lesbian/gay/bisexual audiences (LGB), and C2D social classes, and focuses on those who are into film.
According to a report by the UK Film Council, which discusses the research, the study highlights a number of stereotypes that are still being perpetuated in film, one of which is sexual behaviour. Older women in particular feel marginalised and rather than being seen as background, sexless figures they're keen to see roles in film that more accurately communicate the characteristics of the modern, sexually liberated older woman. Three in five (61%) claim they are not portrayed as having sexual needs or desires in film and half (50%) are more than comfortable seeing themselves as being attractive to younger men – the recently identified 'Cougar' phenomenon. Seven in ten (69%) also feel that film tends to glamorise young women and older characters - especially older women - tend to be significantly under-represented.
While a large proportion of older women would like to see their characters 'sexed up' in film, by contrast, other groups were keen to see their sexuality downplayed. Four-fifths (80%) of LGB individuals felt the focus on gay characters in film concentrated too much on their sexuality, while almost two-thirds of Black African/Caribbean people (63%) felt that their characters were portrayed as overly sexual in film.
The research also delves further into some of the other negative stereotypes communicated in film. A majority (80%) of Black African/Caribbean individuals believe they are too often characterised as drug dealers in film and around three-quarters (74%) would like to see a superhero in film that isn't a white guy. Almost three-quarters (71%) of LGB audiences believe that film focuses on them as having problems rather than being everyday people.
In addition, almost three-quarters of Eastern European respondents (72%) believe they are regularly portrayed as being at the bottom of the economic ladder, while a similar proportion of Asian audiences (74%) believe that Asian religious culture is not reflected authentically. One in two C2D social grade individuals also believe that films telling stories of their lives are too often depressing.
These figures become even more important when contrasted with how powerful the general population feels the role of film has in changing behaviour. Almost 7 in 10 people (69%) believe that film has the power to tell stories that educate people about real life events, demonstrating that film doesn't merely entertain and pass the time, but is an important medium to help change ingrained beliefs and stereotypes in society.
What is also clear from the findings is that film remains one of the most popular pastimes for people in the UK and – interestingly - diverse audiences represent some of the most regular film viewers. As many as three-quarters (76%) of the general public consider watching films as a pleasurable way to fill their spare time, yet only 31% attend the cinema at least once a month. Contrast this to minority ethnic groups who visit the cinema much more regularly with 67% of Asian and Eastern European groups, and 56% of Black African/Caribbean individuals and 55% of LGB respondents attending on a monthly basis.
While things have improved over the past decade with 71% of the general public claiming that film has become more authentic in its portrayal of diverse groups over the last 10 years, diverse audiences feel strongly that more work needs to be done - a massive 95% of Asian and Eastern European groups, 97% of Black African/Caribbean, and 90% of LGB groups believe this is the case.
An interesting finding from the study also highlights that there is considerable commercial opportunity to be reaped if diverse groups are represented more authentically on film. 59% of Asian, 66% of Black African/Caribbean, 54% of East European and 51% of LGB audiences say they would watch more films if they felt this was the case.
See: www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk
(LB)
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