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Representation in UBCP/ACTRA and How it Has Improved

In recent years, there has been a growing call in the entertainment industry for correct and inclusive representation on screen. The study, conducted by UBCP/ACTRA in collaboration with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, aimed to examine equity and diversity in the film industry, focusing on representation in UBCP/ACTRA.

The goal was to shed light on the representation of diverse identities in the British Columbia (B.C.) film and television industry. The results of the study offer valuable insights into the progress and challenges that remain in achieving fair and inclusive representation. This article aims to provide insight into the representation landscape within UBCP/ACTRA and highlight the positive changes that have already been implemented.

Power of Media Representation

The film and television industry holds a significant influence in shaping public perceptions and attitudes. Media serves as a powerful tool for inspiring change and reflecting our diverse society. As such, it is crucial for the stories we tell to accurately represent the diversity of our communities. The UBCP/ACTRA study recognizes the pivotal role played by the entertainment industry and aims to encourage more inclusive and diverse portrayals on screen.

Representation in UBCP/ACTRA: Key Findings and Insights

The study focuses on six key identity categories: gender, race/ethnicity, 2SLGBTQIA+, disability, fatness, and age. Analyzing film and television productions from 2018 to 2021, the research uncovers important findings regarding representation within UBCP/ACTRA:

Gender Representation

  • Male characters continue to outnumber female characters across all production types, with the widest gap in film.
  • However, there has been a positive shift in recent years, with a more balanced representation of gender.
  • Female characters often receive top billing, while male characters are more likely to have last billing.
  • Protagonist and fellowship roles are more frequently assigned to female characters, while male characters are often portrayed as villains or antagonists.
  • Positive traits are often attributed to female characters, while negative traits tend to be associated with male characters.

Race and Ethnicity

  • White characters dominate the majority of roles in B.C. productions, with TV movies having the highest representation.
  • However, there has been progress in increasing racial inclusion and diversifying the character pool.
  • Latinx and Black characters have a higher percentage of 2SLGBTQIA+ representation.
  • Middle Eastern and North African characters are more likely to exhibit fatness, disability, and age 50 and older.
  • Leading roles predominantly go to white characters, while multiracial and Black characters are more commonly seen as fellowship members.


  • The study reveals that less than 5% of characters across all production types identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, with TV shows leading in representation.
  • Over time, there has been a positive increase in the share of 2SLGBTQIA+ characters, particularly in TV shows.
  • Female characters make up the majority of 2SLGBTQIA+ characters, with white characters being the most represented.
  • 2SLGBTQIA+ characters are often portrayed with positive traits, including being seen as sexy, funny, and leaders.


  • Characters with disabilities make up approximately 3.3% of all characters, but their representation has seen a decline over time.
  • Male characters have a higher percentage of disabilities compared to characters without disabilities.
  • Characters with disabilities often face discrimination within storylines and are associated with negative traits.
  • However, they are also more likely to be portrayed as leaders, highlighting the existence of the “supercrip” trope.

Fatness Representation

  • Fat characters account for just over 5% of all characters across various production types, with the highest percentage in film (7.3%) and the lowest in TV shows (4.7%).
  • There has been no significant change in the representation of fatness over time, suggesting a lack of active efforts to increase the presence of fat characters in media.
  • Gender disparities among fat characters are more pronounced than among nonfat characters, with 78% male and 21.7% female fat characters, aligning with gendered beauty standards.
  • Fat characters are more likely to be Middle Eastern/North African (2.0%) and ages 50 and older (35.2%), but less likely to be Asian/Pacific Islander (3.8%).
  • They are more prevalent in minor roles (7.6%) and less represented in lead/colead roles (0.7%).
  • Fat characters have lower representation in title credits (3.8%) compared to nonfat characters (6.4%).
  • They are less likely to be protagonists (2.6%) or part of the fellowship (15.7%), indicating a lack of narrative significance.
  • Negative traits such as unattractiveness (3.4%), undesirability (1.4%), and being the butt of the joke (2.6%) are more commonly attributed to fat characters.
  • Fat characters are portrayed as sexy significantly less often (1.1%) compared to nonfat characters (5.1%).

Age Representation

  • Characters ages 50 and older make up nearly one-fifth of all characters across different production types, with the highest representation in TV shows (26.9%) and the lowest in TV movies (17.7%).
  • The proportion of characters ages 50 and older has remained relatively stable over time, except for a significant drop in TV shows from 2018 (19.1%) to 2019 (15.4%).
  • There is a wider gender gap among characters 50 and older (67.7% male, 32.3% female) compared to characters under 50 (51.8% male, 48.0% female), reflecting the erasure of older female characters in the industry.
  • Characters 50 and older are predominantly white (79.4%), resulting in lower representation of characters of color in this age group compared to younger characters.
  • They have higher percentages of fatness (9.4%) and disabilities (5.4%), but lower representation of 2SLGBTQIA+ characters (1.2%).
  • Characters 50 and older are more commonly seen in smaller roles (minor: 21.4%, supporting: 23.4%) and have less than 5% representation in leading roles.
  • In credit sequences, characters 50 and older appear slightly less often (17.7%), with a higher percentage receiving last billing (40.2%).
  • They have a higher percentage of villains (4.5%) and antagonists (18.6%) and lower percentages as protagonists (2.0%) or members of the fellowship (18.2%) compared to characters under 50.
  • Characters 50 and older are portrayed as sexy (0.7%), smart (6.1%), and funny (6.0%) at lower rates but are more likely to be characterized as leaders (21.3%) and less likely to be put down by others (2.9%).

Significant Upgrades

In recent years, the entertainment industry has witnessed noteworthy advancements in representation, ensuring a more inclusive and diverse landscape. These improvements encompass various aspects, including gender, race, 2SLGBTQIA+ characters, characters with disabilities, fat characters, and older characters. 

  1. Gender Representation: Notably, there has been a notable increase in gender representation in leading roles, specifically within the realm of TV movies. Female characters are now more likely to receive top billing, reflecting a positive shift towards more equitable portrayals.
  2. Racial Inclusion: The industry has made significant strides in racial inclusion, evident by the decreasing proportion of white characters. Additionally, there has been an encouraging rise in the representation of Asian or Pacific Islander characters among females, emphasizing the importance of diverse storytelling.
  3. 2SLGBTQIA+ Representation: The representation of 2SLGBTQIA+ characters has seen marked improvement, particularly in TV shows. Across all production types, there has been an increase in their overall share, highlighting a growing commitment to showcasing diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
  4. Disability Visibility: While the representation of characters with disabilities has faced some challenges, there has been progress in raising their visibility within media productions. Efforts have been made to shine a light on their stories, even though their representation has experienced a decrease over time.
  5. Fatness Representation: Recognizing the underrepresentation of fat characters, there has been a growing acknowledgment of the need for more diverse and positive portrayals. The industry has started to address the limited visibility of fat characters and the importance of challenging stereotypes surrounding body size.
  6. Older Characters: The presence of characters ages 50 and older in media productions has been acknowledged, as they comprise a significant portion, appearing in nearly one-fifth of all characters. This recognition highlights the importance of representing individuals from various age groups in the stories we tell.
  7. Erasure of Older Female Characters: While progress has been made regarding older characters, there remains an awareness of the erasure of older female characters compared to their male counterparts. This recognition prompts a necessary examination of the gender disparities within the representation of older characters.
  8. Challenging Stereotypes: Efforts have been made to challenge stereotypes surrounding older characters by portraying them as leaders and subverting common tropes. This approach seeks to provide more nuanced and authentic representations, defying age-related stereotypes and promoting inclusivity.
  9. Ongoing Discussions and Recommendations: The industry continues to engage in meaningful discussions and recommendations to foster inclusivity and ensure accurate representation. These ongoing efforts strive to create an environment that reflects the diversity of our society and promotes positive change in the entertainment industry.

The progress made in these various areas of representation showcases a growing commitment to inclusivity and diversity within the entertainment industry. While challenges and disparities still persist, these improvements serve as a reminder of the importance of accurate and fair portrayals that authentically reflect the diverse experiences of individuals from all walks of life.


The UBCP/ACTRA study provides essential insights into representation within the entertainment industry, highlighting both progress and areas for improvement. Efforts have been made to address gender imbalances, increase racial inclusion, and better represent 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. 

However, challenges remain in accurately portraying characters with disabilities, fatness, and older age. Recommendations put forth include avoiding harmful stereotypes, developing complex and diverse female characters, increasing racial diversity, and challenging preconceived notions about age and body size.

As we move forward, it is essential for the entertainment industry as a whole to prioritize accurate and representative storytelling, reflecting the vibrant diversity of our society. 

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