Pretty much every year, we report on The Center For The Study Of Women In Television And Film’s annual report on the representation of women in film, and every year, it proves to be a consistent highlight of the year’s most depressing reading material. The 2015 edition is no exception, highlighting Hollywood’s continued struggles with diversity even as it shows a slight uptick in the drive to get a group that makes up fully half of the U.S. population into starring roles in half its movies.
The study looked at the top 100 grossing films of 2015, finding, among other things, that only 22 percent of them had female protagonists. (Men, meanwhile, were 52 percent, while the other 26 percent were ensemble casts.) That’s actually an improvement from 2014, which was a low point for this particular metric, and a growth of 6 percent since 2002. Expanding the search to any character with a speaking line, meanwhile, pushes that number up to 33 percent, with dudes literally twice as likely as women to get a chance to talk on film.
Those small gains get less exciting when race is factored in, though. 77 percent of women in films in 2015 were white, with only 13 percent black, and 3 percent Asian (a drop from 2014). And while those numbers actually line up pretty neatly with U.S. racial demographics (which show that 12.2 percent of Americans are black, and 4.7 percent Asian), there’s still a massive gap between Hispanic women (16.3 percent of the overall population) and their film avatars, who make up only 4 percent of speaking characters. (There’s also the whole other question of whether merely “matching” racial demographics is good enough, or whether historically underrepresented groups need to appear more prominently against the avalanche of white people on film.)
The study also showed that almost all of the improvements came from movies in which a woman was either credited on the script or seated in the director’s chair. Women made up only 13 percent of protagonists in films which were exclusively written and directed by men, but 50 percent in those with at least one woman behind the camera. It remains to be seen whether recent pushes to get more women involved in film production—like the ongoing pressures and pledges to have a female-directed Star Wars movie—will get these numbers higher when the study comes out again next year.
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