New Stats on Women in Film Show Cinema is Still A Man’s World

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It should come as no surprise to anyone whose been paying attention — even marginally — to 2014’s crop of films and the film industry’s record of production that there is no such thing as gender equality of opportunity in Hollywood, or in any other segment of the moviemaking business.

Dr. Martha Lauzen, who heads San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, has just released her latest study about on-screen representations of female characters in the top 100 grossing films of 2014. Dr. Lauzen has been tracking the disparity in roles for women for decades. Year after year, her exacting studies show that there is little change in the stats. Gain a few points one year, lose a few the next. Progress is flat, and that’s always the disappointing non-news.

This year’s report falls right in line.

That’s hard to believe, considering women’s hard-driving efforts and ongoing clamor targeted at changing the system. There are workshops for women screenwriters and directors, special funds for supporting women-made films, consciousness raising groups that spur moviegoing audiences and moviemakers across the breadth of the industry to demand greater representation of women and better female imaging onscreen, female film festivals in increased numbers focus on femme-helmed films and regional groups that support their theatrical releases.

And with all that, the situation remains pretty much the same. Here’s a summary of Dr. Lauzen’s latest stats:

  • The study found that females comprised just 12% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters last year. The number of female protagonists in 2014 was actually 4 percentage points lower than it was in 2002. However, in films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 39% of protagonists, 33% of major characters, and 37% of all speaking characters.
  • Last year, female characters remained heavily stereotyped. Females were younger than their male counterparts, and more likely to be identified solely by personal life-related roles such as girlfriend, wife, and mother.
  • Regarding racial and ethnic diversity, the percentages of Black female and Latina characters declined slightly in 2014, while the percentage of Asian females increased slightly. 11% of female characters were Black, 4% were Latina, and 4% were Asian.

It’s a formidable stalemate. Depressing, isn’t it?

Read the full study here.

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