Women in Film

A recent study was released this week that found a disturbing gender gap when it came to the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards.  The men nominated for best actor in a leading role averaged 85 minutes of screen time while the women nominated for best actress in a leading role averaged only 57 minutes of screen time. This trend continues when supporting actors and actresses are considered. If you factor in supporting roles, then men spend an average 59 minutes on screen while women average 42 minutes. While this is only a 17-minute difference, it demonstrates the male-dominated nature of the silver screen.


This is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, last year the gender gap was significantly larger, with actors averaging 100 minutes of screen time while actresses averaged only 49 minutes. That means men had 100 percent more screen time than their female counterparts. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film also found that there are less women involved in the film industry today as compared with 20 years ago, and that a mere 28% of speaking roles in the top 100 films from 2012 were played by women.


A theory behind this male domination is that men are preferred as protagonists for movies with a strong goal-oriented or action plot. When the audience has to watch a movie through the lead’s perspective, men are the preferred gender as they are thought to have a more universal appeal. Women typically star in melodramas, demonstrating that women, even when given leading roles, are not given the same types of roles as men are given. Men are preferred for the strong leads while women are preferred for the enigmatic, promiscuous support roles.


Even scripts written by women demonstrate this same gender gap. Although women writers do tend to give women more screen time, the males still dominate in their scripts. This is a reflection of the nature of the silver screen. We have been brought up idolizing male heroes, so naturally we want to have more of these heroes and the scripts and films that we consume. If writers would only deviate from the expected and practiced in order to give us a more strong women heroes, such as Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. The success of the Hunger Games franchise is a prime example that men are not the only effective silver screen heroes. Women are perfectly capable of kicking some serious butt as well.