Last year’s top films had fewer female protagonists than 2016, study finds
Even though 2017’s three biggest hits at the box office — Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, and Beauty and the Beast — all featured women in leading roles, a new study has found that across the board,the number of female film protagonists actually decreased last year.
San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has released its annual investigation into the gender makeup of Hollywood’s top films, finding that women made up only 24 percent of the protagonists in last year’s top 100 highest-grossing domestic films. That’s a decline of 5 percentage points from 2016.
The number of overall female characters in the year’s top films remained the same as last year, at 37 percent. The study also found that only 32 percent of last year’s films had 10 or more female characters with speaking roles, as opposed to 79 percent of films that had 10 or more male speaking characters.
There was a slight increase in the number of female characters of color, but the numbers continue to be dismal: Black female characters increased from 14 percent to 16 percent, while Asian female characters went from 6 percent to 7 percent. Latina characters saw the biggest increase, jumping from 3 percent to 7 percent.
Unsurprisingly, the study also found that films with at least one woman as a director or writer were overwhelmingly more likely to have better female representation: Only 20 percent of films with all-male creative teams had a female protagonist, as opposed to 45 percent of films with at least one female director or writer.