Global Audiences Want Better Representation on Screen
As part of our commitment to reflect, celebrate and elevate the diversity of our audiences, ViacomCBS carried out a new research study, Reflecting Me: Global Representation on Screen, to explore how consumers around the world feel about how people like them are depicted in TV shows and movies.
We surveyed over 15,000 people aged 13-49 in 15 countries around the world and connected with a diverse range of people in 7 countries through video interviews and immersive digital exercises. This project explores multiple aspects of diversity, encompassing ethnicity/race, gender identity, sexuality, disability, and more.
We’ll cover findings from this research across a series of blog posts. Here’s what we learned about the importance and complexity of representation in entertainment:
People want better representation both on- and off-screen. Almost 8 in 10 people (78%) believe it is important that TV shows and movies offer diverse representation of lots of different groups and identities. This sentiment is even stronger among people with mixed heritage (85%), marginalized ethnic groups (86%), and among Black people (91%). Most believe that companies making TV shows and movies should commit to increasing diversity and representation both on-screen (84%) and off-screen (83%).
Representation in entertainment has real-world impacts. Most respondents (85%) agree that the way groups and identities are portrayed in TV shows and movies influences how they are perceived in the real world.
Effective representation goes beyond the surface level. Representation is not just about being seen on screen – it has to ring true. Among people who feel poorly represented in TV shows and movies, 58% believe that people like them are not represented enough and 52% think people like them are represented inaccurately. People from marginalized communities often feel they are caricatured.
Good representation reveals complex identities. People’s individual lived experiences rarely fit neatly into boxes. Among LGB people who feel poorly represented, only half (49%) said it was due to their sexual orientation, while the remainder felt under-represented or misrepresented in other ways. Similarly, only 1 in 4 disabled people (26%) who feel poorly represented attribute that sentiment to their disability. The findings also indicate that the more intersectional marginalized identities a person has, the less well represented they feel.
Local culture and communities affect perceptions about representation. The factors that cause people to feel poorly represented vary by country. In the 15 countries surveyed, either race/ethnicity or economic status is the #1 issue. However, there are many regional differences. Race/ethnicity is not a top issue in Argentina, Chile, Germany, Italy and Poland; age is important in Australia, Germany, Poland and the UK; and religion is a factor in Brazil, Malaysia and Singapore. So, how well represented you feel not only depends on who you are, but also where you are.