Analysis of 2,000 scripts confirms Hollywood’s sexism issues

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Mushu (voice of Eddie Murphy) and Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) appear in a scene from "Mulan." Disney photo

Mushu (voice of Eddie Murphy) and Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) appear in a scene from “Mulan.” Disney photo

The folks at Polygraph released Friday an impressive analysis of about 2,000 film scripts broken down by gender and age, and the results put data behind the anecdotal evidence of Hollywood’s sexism issues.

According to the report, the fine folks at Polygraph Googled 8,000 screenplays and matched each character’s lines to an actor. From there, they compiled the number of words spoken by male and female characters across roughly 2,000 films, arguably the largest undertaking of script analysis ever.

The analysis found that 22 of 30 Disney films have a male majority of dialogue, with The Jungle Book having 98 percent male dialogue. Even films with female leads, such as Mulan, the dialogue swings male. Mushu, her protector dragon, has 50 percent more words of dialogue than Mulan herself.

Only five Disney movies  – Frozen, The Incredibles, Into the Woods, Tarzan and Tangled – notched close to 50-50 male and female dialogue. In only four films – Inside Out, Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty – did women characters have 60 percent or more of the dialogue.

For each screenplay, the Polygraph people mapped characters with at least 100 words of dialogue to a person’s IMDB page. Also, as the Polygraph folks admitted, films change quite a bit from script to screen, so the methodology isn’t perfect.

But pieces of the analysis line up with the findings of other studies. In 22 percent of films in the Polygraph analysis, actresses had the most amount of dialogue (in other words, they were the lead). Women are more likely to be in the second place for most amount of dialogue, which occurs in 34 percent of films.

Even worst, women occupy at least 2 of the top 3 roles in a film in 18 just percent of the films. But comparison, that same scenario for men occurs in about 82 percent of films.

Similarly, a study released last August by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative reported that 21 of the 100 top-grossing fiction films of 2014 featured a female protagonist or co-protagonist, a seven-percent drop from 2013, according to The Washington Post.

For each film, the Polygraph people also determined the age of each cast member at the time of its release and were able to put some numbers on Hollywood’s ageism issue, especially as it pertains to women. The amount of dialogue, by age range, is completely opposite for women versus men, Polygraph found. Dialogue available to women who are older than 40 decrease substantially. For men, it’s the exact opposite: there are more roles available to older actors.

It’s definitely worth heading over to the Polygraph report here, where an array of interactive graphs help illustrate this alarming, if not surprising, statistics.

Melissa McCarthy appears in a scene from "The Boss." Universal Pictures photo

Melissa McCarthy appears in a scene from “The Boss.” Universal Pictures photo

Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss bests Batman v. Superman at the box office

Just because Hollywood is reluctant to allow women into lead roles doesn’t mean that film fans won’t support movies starring women. Melissa McCarthy’s latest comedy The Boss claimed the top spot at the North American box office with an estimated $23.48 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Boss bested the superhero epic Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’s weekend gross of $23.44 million. The superhero movie fell 54 percent in its third weekend as its total domestic tally rose to $296.7 million.

McCarthy claims her third No. 1 opening, following 2013’s Identity Thief and last summer’s Spy. The Boss had to overcome even worse reviews – its approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is just 18 percent — compared to Batman v. Superman’s 29 percent Rotten Tomatoes ranking.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, female moviegoers proved their power by rushing to see The Boss. Its audience was 67 percent female, with 51 percent younger than 35 and 49 percent 35 and older. Seventy-nine percent cited McCarthy as the main reason they sought out the movie.

Written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone with their Groundlings collaborator Steve Mallory and directed by Falcone, the comedy was produced for $29 million, which means it’s well on its way to making a profit, which is more than can be said for Batman v Superman.

It was a big weekend for McCarthy: Along with her latest movie opening at No. 1, she crowd-surfed to pick up her Comedic Genius at Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards, where she became the first woman to ever receive the honor from the network, reports

“I may be the first woman to receive this award, but I am certainly not the first one to deserve it,” McCarthy said during her acceptance speech. “I’m a walking human patchwork of all the funny women I have loved and studied over the years.”

She then made sure to thank her mother as well as some of the hilarious ladies who came before her, including Lucille Ball, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Geena Davis. Photo provided

Geena Davis. Photo provided

Quick hitters:

Geena Davis continues to speak about battling unconscious bias. Oscar winner and advocate Geena Davis is continuing to speak out on the importance of Hollywood battling its unconscious gender bias in a new Q&A with Forbes.

“Unconscious is the default and it’s always male. Of course the doctor in the scene and the plumber and police officer, or whoever it’s going to be, is typically male. Unless you say, ‘Why couldn’t it be female? Let’s just take a second. Could this character be female or a person of color for that matter?'” she told Forbes.

“Unless we understand our unconscious bias and where it came from, and how all-pervasive it is, then it’s hard to make that switch. We have to make a more objective way to make decisions about promotions. We have to have a policy in place. We have to realize that this is not something that’s going to go away without very conscious thought and efforts.”

Maria Bello asks important questions about The 4%. Two-time Golden Globe nominee Maria Bello joined filmmakers Paul Feig, Caroline Suh and Tina Mabry as well as researcher Stacy L. Smith from USC Annenberg, for a screening of the docuseries The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem and panel discussion last week at the SAG-AFTRA headquarters. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series addresses the sobering statistic that only 4 percent of top-grossing films are directed by women. It’s even worse for women of color: According to Smith’s research, out of 700 films from 2007 to 2014, only three were directed by black females.

“Fifty percent of our audience [is] women,” Bello said at the panel. “Why aren’t we telling those stories, and why aren’t we using those fabulous directors?”

Like Davis, Bello suggested considering women for even the smaller, one-liner roles. “When it says ‘plumber,’ you automatically go to a guy,” she said. “Let’s take all those roles — the plumber, the lawyer, the electrician — and open it up to male and female.”

Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe to open in fall. Disney has slated Indian director Mira Nair’s fact-based film Queen Of Katwe for a limited debut on Sept. 23 and an expansion a week later, reports The film, which stars David Oyelowo (Selma), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga, is based on a book by Tim Crothers with a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax). It centers on a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess.

Charlize Theron to get Fast and Furious. Oscar winner Charlize Theron seems to be embracing her inner villain these days. Not only will she reprise her role as the evil Queen Ravenna in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, opening April 22, she will join the eighth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise as the baddie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she’ll join returning franchise favorites Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson. Straight Outta Compton helmer F. Gary Gray is directing the next chapter, zipping into theaters April 14, 2017.


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