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Women's Roles In Popular Cinema At Lowest Point In Years

Let’s assume that Star Trek Into Darkness takes the top spot at the box office this weekend, and that it will be followed by Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby. When you break down all the prominent cast members, male actors outnumber the female actors roughly 16 to 6. And while big pre-summer releases aren’t exactly where you go to find your forward thinking moral grounds, it’s still another sign that women’s roles in Hollywood still have a long way to go to even closely match up to males.

An L.A. Times article discusses a study released this week by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that focused on the 100 highest grossing movies of 2012, and discovered that only 28.4 percent of the speaking roles in all of these films went to women, a drop from 32.8% a few years ago. It’s a number that has not changed drastically in a very long time, despite female-driven films like The Hunger Games and Bridesmaids pulling in huge audiences. A handful of really good exceptions does not change the rule in this case. It never helps when the highest grossing movies of the year are generally ensemble films, which would seem to skew the numbers ever further.

"There is notable consistency in the number of females on-screen from year to year," said USC researcher Marc Choueiti. "The slate of films developed and produced each year is almost formulaic — in the aggregate, female representation hardly changed at all."

And to be expected, the women that are appearing in films aren’t always presented like Sally Field’s Mary Todd in Lincoln. At a five-year high, the percentage of woman wearing sexually-revealing clothing in these films is 31.6 percent, and within that result, the number of teen girls dressing provocatively is 56.6 percent. That’s not only wrong, it’s downright creepy. (For everyone but teen boys that is.)

Can’t blame the audiences, either. "There is a perception that movies that pull male sell,” says study author Stacy L. Smith. “Given that females go to the movies as much as males, the lack of change is likely due to entrenched ways of thinking and doing business that perpetuate the status quo." It appears that the best way to get women in front of the camera is to get more women behind the camera, which is ridiculously overdue anyway.

I guess women still have it over anthropomorphic teddy bears, only one of whom had a speaking part in 2012 cinema.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.