The actor Dwayne Johnson is not only saving the world driving fastly and furiously, he is apparently also saving Hollywood from largely excluding Asian and Pacific Islander actors from leading roles in movies over the last dozen years, according to a new study.
“The Prevalence and Portrayal of Asian and Pacific Islanders across 1,300 Popular Films” is another report about the pervasive whiteness of the film industry that arrives in the middle of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and amid growing anti-Asian violence in the U.S.
As the title states, the study by Nancy Wang Yuen, Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzed 1,300 top-grossing movies to track representation of API people on both sides of the camera and among company executives from 2007 to 2019.
The authors say what they found shows just 44 films—3.4%—featured an API lead or co-lead performer, and only six films were led or co-led by an API woman. Breaking it down further, the group’s work reveals that of those 44 movies, 14 of them starred Johnson. That is a third of the films starring API people. Additionally, nearly 40% of the films reviewed had no API representation at all.
“People often ask me whether representations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are improving,” Yuen said. “Unfortunately, when representation looks like tokenism, Hollywood is doing the bare minimum for inclusion.”