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Study Reveals Lack of Diversity in Hollywood Blockbusters is Staggering

  • Published: 2014-07-30 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-23) : Author: LEE & LOW BOOKS : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Study illuminates dramatic lack of diversity in top grossing Hollywood blockbusters in science fiction and fantasy genres.

As moviegoers flock to theaters this weekend to see Lucy and Guardians of the Galaxy, a new study released by children's book publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS illuminates the dramatic lack of diversity in top-grossing Hollywood blockbusters in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Examining the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy movies as reported by Box Office Mojo, the study finds that only 14% of the movies feature a female protagonist and only 8% feature a protagonist of color.

Differences in racial or ethnic classifications, age, gender, religion, philosophy, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, physical health, genetic attributes, behavior, attractiveness, or other identifying features.

The study also finds that no movies on the list feature a woman of color as the protagonist; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender protagonists are likewise absent. Only one movie ( Avatar ) features a protagonist with a disability. Perhaps most surprising, the study reports that only two actors of color have appeared in lead roles: Will Smith, who plays six out of the eight protagonists of color, and Keanu Reeves ( The Matrix Reloaded ). The last protagonist of color is Aladdin, a cartoon character voiced by a white actor.

"The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination," says Marissa Lee, co-founder of the international grassroots organization, which is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond. "Hollywood has managed to market some weird stuff, like a tentpole movie about talking teenage turtle martial artists, or cars that change into space robots. I don't buy that when it comes to marketing diverse leads, suddenly this giant industry can't do it."

Imran Siddiquee, Director of Communications at the Representation Project, a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes, says Hollywood blockbusters are rarely accidental. "Just look at the top ten films in each of the last five years: nearly every single one had a budget of more than $100 million," Siddiquee says. "Meanwhile, there hasn't been a single film released this year starring a person of color with a budget of more than $50 million."

See the Diversity Gap infographic and read the full study and interviews:

Past studies by LEE & LOW BOOKS have been featured by The New York Times ,, The Huffington Post , and other media outlets; several have gone viral. The studies cover diversity in publishing, politics, the Emmy Awards, the Tony Awards, the Academy Awards, and now Hollywood blockbuster movies. With these studies, LEE & LOW BOOKS hopes to shed light on the systematic underrepresentation of marginalized groups across many industries.

Diversity gap in movies infographicAbout This Image: Diversity gap in movies infographic

For more than twenty years, LEE & LOW BOOKS has published award-winning children's books that are "about everyone, for everyone" (including science fiction and fantasy under the Tu Books imprint). The company is committed to fostering conversations about race, gender, and diversity in publishing and beyond. For more information, visit

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