Stop negative stereotypes of Blacks in movies – Study

Study: UK film industry stands to gain by presenting Blacks more accurately

Filmmakers should make efforts to create an authentic portrayal of the country’s diverse groups, a new major study has revealed.

The independent study was undertaken by global research agency, Harris Interactive, on behalf of the UK Film Council – who funded the Oscar -winning film, “The King’s Speech”.

Some 4,315 people were surveyed to uncover their views and opinions about the portrayal of diverse groups in film.

The research incorporates specific diverse groups and focuses on those who are into film, and delves into a number of negative stereotypes communicated in film.

A majority (80%) of the Black African/Caribbean individuals believe they are too often characterised as drug dealers in film and – interestingly – over half of the general public agrees with them.

Around three-quarters (74%) would like to see a superhero in film that isn’t a white guy and almost two-thirds (63%) are unhappy with their sexual portrayal in film, claiming their characters are portrayed as overly sexual on screen.

These findings demonstrate just how far removed the portrayal of Black African/Caribbean roles in film are from the everyday real lives of the diverse groups that took part in the research.

The research clearly shows that film remains one of the most popular pastimes for people in the UK and – with diverse audiences representing 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. This is in contrast to the minority ethnic groups who visit the cinema much more regularly with 56% of Black African/Caribbean individuals attending on a monthly basis. This is also reflected in the proportion of diverse audiences that feel positively about film – two in five (40%) of the general public feel passionate about film compared with almost two thirds of Black African/Caribbean audiences (66%).

These figures become even more important when contrasted with the general public’s perception of the role of film in changing behaviour. Almost seven in 10 people (69%) believe that film has the power to tell stories that educate people about real life events, demonstrating that film isn’t merely for entertainment but also an important medium to help change ingrained beliefs and stereotypes in society.

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, diverse audiences feel strongly that more work needs to be done. In fact a massive 97% of Black African/Caribbean audiences believe this is the case.

Significantly, around two thirds of Black African/Caribbean groups (66%) say they would watch more films if they felt they were presented more accurately, underlining the fact that there are considerable commercial opportunities for the film industry should these changes be put into place.

Ms. Mary FitzPatrick, Head of Diversity at the UK Film Council and key sponsor of the research, said: “Film remains one of the most popular pastimes for people in the UK and this research highlights the often overlooked views, opinions and needs of the diverse groups that make up an important part of the film industry’s audience. Film has the ability to change behaviour and shift opinion, so we in the Industry all have a responsibility to ensure that these findings are not ignored.

“The figures speak for themselves in demonstrating there is a real opportunity for the industry to more accurately portray these groups in film. This research will form an important part of the UK Film Council’s legacy and will help make a powerful and dynamic change to the way in which diverse groups are portrayed in film going forward.”

British comedienne and actress, Jenny Eclair, supports the findings of the research and hopes the study will open the way for a more authentic portrayal of audiences on screen. Ms. Eclair commented: “Sadly this research demonstrates that, even in our culture of supposed diversity, film – one of the key cultural mediums – is still misrepresenting large proportions of UK film goers. The industry needs to think carefully about how it portrays diverse groups who are frustrated at still being portrayed in de-sexualised, stereotypical roles. The industry is in danger of continuing this misrepresentation where there is clearly the opportunity at hand to change opinion for good.”