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Diversity, Equity and Equality in Hollywood Breakfast

Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Time: 8:30 A.M. Breakfast will be provided.
Location: Bunim/Murray, 1015 Grandview Ave., Glendale CA
Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, laurena@respectability.org or 202-591-0703

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray of Bunim/Murray hosted this breakfast. Murray has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most diverse, innovative, unscripted, entertainment television programs including Emmy-winning Born This Way (A&E), which documents the lives of diverse young adults with Down Syndrome and their families. Murray serves on the Board of Directors for RespectAbility.

RespectAbility’s focus is on the inclusion of diverse people with disabilities within the entertainment industry. However, it is our view that everyone who works on any aspect of diversity in Hollywood should help everyone else as a rising tide lifts all ships. Television and films that represent ALL of us are simply better. During this event, we explored ways we can work together to pitch diversity in Hollywood to ensure a more inclusive medium. We discussed messages and strategies to fight stigma and advance opportunities for all underrepresented people in the industry.

According to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016 (up from 2.4 percent in 2015). None of the leading characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group or the LGBT community.

“The results of this analysis on characters with disabilities reveal clear discrepancies between the real world and the ‘reel world,'” the report says. “Stories that reflect the full lives of characters with disabilities and the demographic diversity of this community remain elusive in film.”

The report shows that in the last decade there has been almost no progress on diversity, equity and equality in Hollywood. Therefore, we need to find a better model to move change.

People with disabilities are the largest minority in America, with almost one-in-five Americans having a disability. Yet the disability community often is forgotten in inclusion and diversity conversations. According to GLAAD, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters (15) had disabilities in 2016. Furthermore, more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities on television are played by actors without disabilities.

What does exist is misleading. Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities in media are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all. Anyone can join the disability community at any point and people with disabilities come from all communities – including the African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ communities.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to stand up against ableism and other prejudice – while promoting positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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