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Hollywood ‘Fails’ On Portraying Faith

by | Fri, Mar 1 2024

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A global survey of 10,000 entertainment consumers has found that Hollywood needs to do a better job of accurately portraying faith and religion. More than two-thirds of American respondents believed most TV shows and movies perpetuate religious stereotypes. An overwhelming majority of multinational viewers said religious identity is the most under-represented and most sensationalised characteristic in entertainment.

The Global Faith and Entertainment Study, conducted by HarrisX in partnership with the Faith and Media Initiative, surveyed entertainment consumers in 11 countries to focus a lens on how diverse audiences view the issue. Many respondents were concerned they don’t see their faith represented as often as sexual orientation, race, and gender and when it was represented, it was as a bland stereotype.

The entertainment consumers who took part in the survey agreed that three steps can be taken to help improve faith portrayals. They are: hiring writers and talent who share the faith of the characters being portrayed; hiring experts to help frame such portrayals; and writing more diverse religious characters and storylines into the mix.

Frank Patterson, CEO of Trilith Studios, a Hollywood production house in Fayette County, Georgia, noted that the results shed light on the important role Hollywood plays in shaping perceptions. “The findings underscore an important responsibility we have in Hollywood — to authentically portray faith and spirituality in our productions. Doing so represents an opportunity to bridge cultural divides, challenge stereotypes, and tell stories that reflect the diverse spiritual experiences of our global audience. It’s not just about representation; it’s about making a positive impact on society through the stories we choose to tell,” he explained.

“This research shows there is an untapped market in entertainment media,” said Brooke Zaugg, Executive Director of the Faith & Media Initiative. “Across the globe, consumers are looking for more accurate portrayals of faith and spirituality. This isn’t about creating faith content, rather adding faith fluency and diverse storylines to all types of TV and movies. We urge the entertainment industry to take notice of this enormous global audience. It’s not just good business, but also a priceless opportunity to unify people when the world feels increasingly divided,” she declared.

Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX observed: “Good storytelling in TV and movies has historically educated, inspired and led to positive change in business and society. The data shows clearly that addressing the concerns of audiences around the world about the lack of range, diversity, representation, depth, and accuracy when it comes to portrayals of viewers own religion, faith and spirituality – and that of other faiths they interact with – is both good business and leads to positive impact. Today, entertainment is increasingly on demand and democratised, therefore the needs of these massive swathes of consumers should not be ignored.”