Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Role Portrayals and Ethnicity in Hollywood Movies: A Content Analysis

Sengupta Subir.

This study examined the role portrayals of characters of different ethnicities in Hollywood movies. More specifically, the ingroup-outgroup theory and implicitly the "burden of representation" were examined in relation to the ethnicity of the directors and how the characters belonging to different ethnicities were portrayed.
Overall results of the content analysis showed that most Euro-Americans (excluding Italian Americans) were portrayed in high-level positions, Italian Americans were mostly portrayed as criminals, African Americans were mostly portrayed in low-level positions and as criminals, and Hispanic Americans were often portrayed as drug dealers. In addition, it was found that Euro American directors often portrayed the Euro American characters in high-level positions and the African American characters in low-level positions. The opposite was true when the director was African American. These results show that the "burden of representation" and the ingroup-outgroup theory are applicable to Hollywood directors. These systematic negative portrayals of certain groups can negatively impact self esteem and can create an identity crisis in the minds of the people. This is particularly relevant to those belonging to ethnic minority groups because they have so few positive role models in society.


Sengupta Subir  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
Marist College

Dr. Sengupta holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Georgia. He is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Communication Department at Marist College, New York

  • Role portrayals
  • Ethnicity
  • Hollywood movies

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)