It's no surprise that women are criminally underrepresented in Hollywood films, but new research has put into sharp focus just how serious the problem really is.
A study written by Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, that examined the 100 top-grossing films of 2013 found that only 15 percent of them featured a female protagonist, while only 30 percent of those films had female speaking characters. Based on those stark statistics, it's hard to argue with the study's title: "It's a Man's (Celluloid) World."
Lauzen's research further showed that only 29 percent of the highest-grossing films featured a major female character, and just 13 percent of those films had the same number of female characters as male characters. Women that did break into the top 100 were typically much younger than their male counterparts (on average, in their 20s and 30s), while males over the age of 40 represented the largest age demographic. They were much less likely to be depicted doing occupational work, while their marital status was made more of a focus than that of male characters.
"Overall, we have seen little movement in the numbers of female protagonists and females as speaking characters over the last decade," Lauzen told The Hollywood Reporter. "Moreover, female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind."
Lauzen's study analyzed more than 2,300 characters in 2013's top-grossing films, and compared its most recent findings with those from 2002 and 2011, covering a total of 7,000 characters in 300 films. Overall, while female presence has increased incrementally since 2002, it has been a slow growth, and in some cases has actually seen a decrease from both 2002 and 2011 numbers.
Lauzen's entire study -- especially the demographics, which include the oddity that an Asian female character was more rare than an otherworldy/alien female character in 2013 films -- is worth a read. Here's hoping it will get the attention of studio executives and writers who can do something to change it.
Photo courtesy Lionsgate