As Wonder Woman says, “I am the man who can.”
Women made “unprecedented gains” as protagonists in top-grossing films last year, increasing from 31% in 2018 to 40%. The exponential increase in female representation has reached a “historic high,” according to the It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World annual report, written by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. The report has been tracking female involvement in big-name film releases for more than 21 years. Researchers collected content from more than 2,300 characters who appear in 100 of the biggest films released last year. The thorough study covers an astonishing 20,000 characters appearing in more than 900 films dating back to 2002.
According to the study, women accounted for nearly 37% of major characters, but only 34% accounted for women in speaking roles; compared to men who accounted for 63% of major characters and 66% of speaking roles, there’s still a prevalent divide between male and female representation in film. The report also found that female roles were slightly more diverse, although it did not include data on Native American actresses.
The study also found that women were considerably younger than their male counterparts — no surprise there. A majority of female leads were between their 20s and 30s, whereas men were between their 30s and 40s. Actresses experience a significant drop in roles when they reach their 30s, and few actresses are hired for roles past their 60s, the report says.
In relation to their given roles, women were less likely to be seen in work-related roles and instead were more likely to be seen in personal-life-related roles. Another unsurprising detail is that women were more likely than men to be married in film or have a known marital status. Only 26% of women were seen in leadership roles compared to men, who accounted for 74% of leaders in film.
Even though movie-goers experienced a more representative cast in top-grossing films last year, there’s still a long way to go for more diverse casts. Women continue to lead the charge in re-forging the movie industry as an inclusive, inspiring community, and they’ll continue to evolve it with new female-directed films, such as Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, and A Quiet Place: Part II.
Photos: Warner Bros., Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film