80% of global audiences say it is important for the entertainment industry to improve their portrayals of faith and make them more accurate
63% of audiences globally say entertainment frequently perpetuates stereotypes about religion, is the least represented and most sensationalized identity
Creating understanding between different groups and dispelling stereotypes are the top reasons consumers want more accurate depictions of faith and spirituality
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 13, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A first-of-its-kind global study of entertainment consumers conducted by HarrisX in partnership with the non-profit, the Faith and Media Initiative, found an overwhelming majority of global audiences believe the entertainment industry needs to actively improve their portrayals of faith and religion, as well as make them more accurate.
The Global Faith and Entertainment Study surveyed nearly 10,000 entertainment consumers across 11 countries. Consumers say they learn about other religions through entertainment, and see the potential for faith-inclusive content to create understanding and dialogue in society. Yet, respondents share that when they see their religion or faith – and others – included in mainstream entertainment, they feel it’s often sensationalized or that the portrayal leans on stereotypes.
Global Audience Perspectives
The major findings of the study uncover a set of addressable problems and opportunities:
- 69% of American entertainment consumers – and 63% globally – say TV and movies perpetuate religious stereotypes.
- A majority of consumers say religious identity is the least represented, yet the most sensationalized element of identity portrayed.
- Respondents say they don’t see their religious identity on screen as much as their gender, race, or sexual orientation.
- When they do see their religious identity portrayed, it’s more likely to be a sensational or stereotypical depiction.
- 68% of global viewers say it is important to have diverse religious perspectives in TV and movies.
- Most consumers across religions say portrayals of their faith follow repeat storylines, rather than cover fresh, diverse narratives.
- Creating understanding and dispelling stereotypes are cited as the top reasons why representation is important.
- 61% of global consumers think TV and movies can foster dialogue between people of different beliefs.
- 59% of global consumers report learning something new about another religion from a movie or TV show.
- A significant majority of respondents – 80% – say it’s important that the entertainment industry improves portrayals of faith to make them more accurate.
As part of the survey, consumers identified three potential ways for the entertainment industry to generate change:
- write more diverse characters and storylines;
- hire writers and other talent who share the same religion as characters to ensure accurate portrayals;
- hire experts to help with religious portrayals.
Perspectives from within Hollywood
In addition to the online survey of consumers done in summer 2023, HarrisX also conducted 30 in-depth, off-the-record interviews with decision makers in the entertainment industry, including directors, producers, studio and platform executives, actors and writers spanning 7 countries (U.S., Spain, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Honduras and Nigeria).
Industry insiders shared that entertainment with faith storylines are often seen as a niche topic or potentially controversial within the entertainment industry. As such, despite the market potential, it is often sidelined in favor of other types of content. Those interviewed acknowledged there is an untapped market for films that have thought-provoking, diverse, and accurate portrayals of characters’ faith and spirituality.
Reactions to the Findings
Frank Patterson, CEO of Trilith Studios said, “We know the crucial role media plays in shaping perceptions and fostering understanding. The findings of the Global Faith and Entertainment Study 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.”
“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.”
“Good storytelling in TV and movies has historically educated, inspired and led to positive change in business and society,” said Dritan Nesho, CEO of HarrisX. “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 democratized therefore the needs of these massive swaths of consumers should not be ignored.”
The full findings of this wide-reaching survey can be found here.
About the Faith & Media Initiative (FAMI)
The Faith & Media Initiative is a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring more accurate, balanced representation of all faiths in entertainment and news by providing resources and connections to a global, diverse network of media members, content creators, faith leaders, and community members.
HarrisX is a leading global research consultancy that conducts major market research, public policy polling and social science studies in more than 40 countries around the world. It is part of Stagwell Global and the sister company of the Harris Poll, which has conducted public release polling internationally since 1963.
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