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Hollywood may have given us some brilliant films with female protagonists this year, but sadly, those efforts like Gravity and Blue Jasmine were once again very much in the minority. Even worse, this lack of representation doesn’t seem to be trending in the right direction either.
Researchers at San Diego State University just published their third comprehensive analysis of female representation in Hollywood, and in short, the findings aren’t really something anyone should be proud of. According to The Hollywood Reporter, only 15 of the 100 highest grossing 2013 films contained a female protagonist, and only 13 contained as many female characters as male characters. That’s a problem, not only for theatergoers who want some measure of diversity but also for younger, more likely to be influenced fans.
Here’s what Martha M Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television, had to say…
"Overall, we have seen little movement in the numbers of female protagonists and females as speaking characters over the last decade. Moreover, female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind."
Prior to the exhaustive study on last year’s films, the Center conducted a similar analysis on the years 2011 and 2002. They provided the basis for the broad statement that "little movement" has occurred over the past decade. With plenty of female fronted television shows, however, there’s every reason to hope the Silver Screen will eventually get its act together. After all, if even 1/3rd of new films were centrally about a woman or women, it would be considered huge progress by the creative community.
In addition to the sobering evidence related to the hard and fast number of characters, the study also gave voice to an alarming trend actresses have been screaming about for decades. A stupid percentage of the available roles for women go to the really young. While 55% of male movie characters are over the age of 40, only 30% of female movie characters have crossed that milestone, which is probably why brilliant actresses who carried films throughout their lives are often forced to take "doting wife" parts as they age.
For a reminder of how broad and wonderful a female-led film can be, I’ve gone ahead and inserted a scene from A League Of Their Own because I don’t know a single human being who doesn’t love that movie…