Last year (2017) had ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Lady Bird.’ But the number of female leads still went down.

Last year (2017) had ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Lady Bird.’ But the number of female leads still went down.

By Sonia Rao February 22 at 2:27

With the birth of the #MeToo movement and success of movies like “Wonder Woman,” 2017 was an empowering year for women in Hollywood. But the year’s top films may not have reflected as much.

The number of female protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing films fell five percentage points last year, according to a new report from San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Women made up 24 percent of featured protagonists, defined for the study’s purposes as characters from whose perspective the story is told.

It’s an odd occurrence, given that the three most popular films of last year’s domestic box office list each featured a woman in a lead role: Rey in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” and Diana Prince of “Wonder Woman.”

The study analyzed more than 2,300 characters in those 100 films. Even when considering those billed lower than the leads, female representation did not improve much in 2017. About 37 percent of all major characters were women, the same number as in 2016, while the percentage of speaking characters increased two points to 34 percent.

Despite a roughly 50-50 gender balance in the world’s population, moviegoers were almost twice as likely to see male characters on screen.

Female characters also remained younger than their male equivalents. Most women on screen were in their 20s (32 percent) or 30s (25 percent), whereas men tended to be in their 30s (31 percent) or 40s (27 percent). Women 40 and older accounted for 29 percent of all female characters, while the same age for men reached 46 percent.

….The data found that representation among directors and writers often corresponded with higher numbers for their actors. In movies with at least one female director or writer, women made up 45 percent of protagonists and 48 percent of major characters. In films directed or written entirely by men, women made up 20 percent of protagonists and 33 percent of major characters.

Correlation does not imply causation, of course. And as Natalie Portman called out at the Golden Globes, Hollywood still has work to do when it comes to providing opportunities for female directors.

See Also

2018 Study: Women-Character-Centric Movies Outperform Male-Centric Character Movies

Film Diversity Report Says Hollywood Rhetoric Hasn’t Equaled Results

Hollywood: Please Stop Marketing Some of Your Movies as Being “Feminist”

Study Shows Movie Audiences Aren’t As Racist As Hollywood Execs Think (2018)

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