The already obscenely low percentage of female protagonists in Hollywood blockbusters dropped even lower in 2014.
Thinking about movies that have come out during the past couple of years, it might seem like there are more female lead characters than ever. After all, prominent franchises like The Hunger Games, Divergent and Frozen are so heavily advertised, it seems like women are everywhere.
Well, the numbers are in, and they tell a very different story. Deadline reports a new study, which have revealed that only 12% of all protagonists in the top 100 domestic box office hits were female. Yes. 12%.
That’s 4% less than in 2002, which is interesting, since the male-led franchises Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Men in Black all had new movies that year.
Further, there has also been a decrease in the number of black females and Latina characters seen on the big screen. A shockingly low 11% of the female characters cast in the top-grossing films last year were black – that’s 11% of the 12%, which means that about 1.2% of all protagonists (!) were black women. Meanwhile 4% of all females were Latina, and 4% were Asian.
Think these numbers sound extreme? Let’s see – while most major action and sci-fi movies have a token female or two (we’re looking at you, Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy), how many movies from within the last couple of years can you name in which the number of female protagonists outweigh the number of males?
We’ve got Pitch Perfect, Maleficent… and that’s it? Not even Hunger Games passes the test; Katniss is notably flanked by her two male love interests (and fellow lead characters).
And for every Katniss Everdeen, there are three Percy Jacksons. For every Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, there are half a dozen Superbads.
The important study comes from Dr. Martha Lauzen, Executive Director of San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
“The chronic under-representation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry,” Lauzen tells Deadline.
“Women are not a niche audience, and they are no more ‘risky’ as filmmakers than men. It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry’s relevance in today’s marketplace.”
And as for the female characters actually found in blockbuster movies? According to the report, “gender stereotypes remained abundant in last year’s films. Female characters were younger than their male counterparts and more likely to be identified solely by personal life-related roles such as wife, mother and girlfriend.”
Wake up, Hollywood. This is unacceptable.