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31% Of Lead Characters In 2018 Movies Were Women, But We Aren’t Getting Any Lines

We always talk about how female representativeness matter, right? So I’m glad to inform you that, according to the report from the San Diego University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, female protagonists led 31% of the movies in 2018. For you to have an idea, this number was up to 24% in 2017 and, in the year before, the register was 29%.

Yet, not all the news about this are that good. The survey looked at more than 2,500 characters appearing in the 100 top grossing movies at the domestic box office and the results showed that, in 2018, only 35% of those films featured 10 or more female characters in speaking roles. Although, 82% of the same movies that had 10 or more male characters in speaking parts.

Even with movies like A Quiet Place, Halloween and Ocean’s Eight gaining prominence with strong female lead characters, last year wasn’t what we expected when the subject in matter is the representativeness of women.

Image Source: IMDb

“Protagonists are the characters from whose perspective the story is told and so seeing more females in these roles is tremendously important. However, we are not seeing similar gains in the broader populations of major characters and in all speaking roles”, says Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University, which released the report called “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World”.

Also, it is important to notice that the movies with at least one woman director and/or writer featured higher percentages of female protagonists, major female characters and females in speaking roles (57%) than films with exclusively male directors and/or writers (21%).


Women are Working in a Variety of Movie Genres

Image Source: IMDb

Other findings showed us that female protagonists were most likely to appear in comedies (32%), dramas (29%), horror films (19%), science-fiction features (10%), action features (7%) and films in other genres (3%). Furthermore, women appeared more as the sole protagonist of a film in indie features (68%) than major productions (32%).

This results could be considered a positive thing to Dr. Lauzen, she added: “Their appearance in a variety of genres suggests female characters are being woven more deeply into all types of stories. If a particular genre temporarily falls out of favor, it is less likely that substantial numbers of female protagonists will disappear from the big screen.”


The Majority of Female Characters are Young and in a Relationship

Image source: IMDb

According to the analysis, female characters were represented a lot younger than their male counterparts. 29% and 28% of women in movies were in their 20s and 30s, respectively. In comparison, male characters were between 30s (35%) and 40s (25%). Another point was that, while 45% of men in movies was 40 years old or over, women with the same age range composed only 31% of all female characters.

The majority of women in films also had a relationship status (47%), besides 36% of male characters that had a known marital status. At the same time, 76% of men protagonist had an identifiable job or occupation, against only 62% female.

When talking about race and ethnicity, the percentage of black females in speaking roles increased from 16% in 2017 to 21% in 2018. In spite of the fact that Latinas declined from 7% to 4% and Asian women increased from 7% to 10%, in 2017 and 2018, respectively. However, this last percentage is explained by Crazy Rich Asians, that featured an all-Asian cast. “When this film is excluded from the analysis, Asians accounted for 8% of females, only 1% point above the percentage achieved in 2017”, says Dr. Lauzen.

If you wanna watch more films that has female lead characters and think about ways to help this kind of percentage to increase, get to know the Bechdel Test and be aware when choosing a movie to make sure that women are being represented beyond the sexist stereotype.

Larissa Bomfim

Casper Libero '19

Journalist and completely immersed in pop culture (and a little bit of indie, we must confess). My "watchlist" on Netflix is only smaller than my pile of books waiting to be read.
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