Movies feature more male characters than female characters. Anyone who goes to the theater more than a few times a year no doubt is aware that discrepancy exists, but the actual percentages are perhaps a little more striking than most might realize. Analyzing the one hundred highest grossing movies of 2011, researchers at San Diego State University found only thirty-three percent of characters featured in said movies were ladies. The rest were dudes, and when the focus narrowed to “clearly defined protagonists”, the numbers were even more startling.

According to The Los Angeles Times, only eleven percent of main characters were women last year. That’s actually a drop from where the figure was in 2002 (16%), and it should serve as a wake-up call for executives looking to focus on underutilized demographics, especially after the success of The Help and Bridesmaids.

Going beyond the raw numbers and looking into specifics, the study found female characters were more readily identified by their marital statuses and less likely to be depicted as clear leaders. Nearly three-quarters of the women were Caucasians and just under ten percent were African-Americans.

If there’s one thing Hollywood likes more than sexism, it’s making money. So, the more female-fronted films are supported, the more of them will get made. That’s basic economics, and given recent trends, there’s reasons to be hopeful these figures will have improved a decade or so from now.

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