Hispanics may be driving population growth in the U.S. but when it comes to appearing on the silver screen, they’re a pretty rare sight. In October, USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released a study revealing that in the top 100 grossing films of 2012, only 4% of speaking characters were Hispanic.  In fact, they are the most under-represented group in movies (76% White, 11% Black, 5% Asian).

The study also found that the roles they do have are more likely to stereotype them in certain ways. About 40% of Hispanic females with roles in 2012 films were depicted in sexy attire or partially naked – compared with about 30% of White and Black women, and 16% of Asian women. Hispanic males, on the other hand, are more likely to have domesticated roles. Among male roles, 83% of Hispanic men were fathers, versus 50% of Asians, 45% of Whites, and 27% of Blacks.

How do Hispanic young adults feel about their portrayal in entertainment? We found some insights in last year’s Maximo Report by Motivo Insights and the New Generation Latino Consortium. This study focused on New Generation Latinos (NGLs), who are Latinos ages 14 to 30 who were born in the U.S. or have been here at least 15 years. This analysis featured a quantitative online survey of Latinos and non-Hispanic Whites ages 14 to 30, as well as focus groups and other discussions in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.

Here are some key findings:

Young Latinos are optimistic about the future – and entertainment is the area where they expect to make the most progress. However, we’re not there yet. Only 1 in 10 believes that bicultural Latinos are represented very well on TV – and the same proportion think Latinos are extremely well-represented in marketing and advertising.

They crave representation in entertainment content. Three-quarters of NGLs said they would be more likely to watch a show if it had a Latino ensemble cast, or if it featured a story about Latinos in the U.S. or from Latin America.

Latinos expect more diversity in advertising and marketing, as well as broad appeal. Nearly 7 in 10 said they would prefer a commercial with actors from different groups – and a similar proportion reported that they don’t care who’s in it as long as it’s a good commercial. Close to half prefer ads that reflect aspects of both Latino and American cultures.

Source: 2012 Maximo Report, Motivo Insights and NGLC; “Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key To Diversifying Cinematic Content Held in the Hand of the Black Director?,” USC Annenberg Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative, October 2013

Picture from Juanes’ new video ‘La Luz’ – watch it on the Tr3s website.