So much for girl power in Hollywood — last year looked more like gone girl, at least among the top-grossing movies. According to a new study, females accounted for only 12% of all the protagonists depicted in the top 100 domestic box office hits released last year. They also made up just 29% of the major characters and 30% of all speaking roles.
In her latest annual report, Dr. Martha Lauzen, Executive Director of San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, found that the number of female protagonists depicted in the top-grossing American films last year dropped 3% from 2013 and 4% from 2002.
The report, titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World,” also found that last year’s top 100 films with female directors and/or writers had more than three times as many female protagonists as those written and directed exclusively by men.
“The chronic under-representation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry,” Lauzen said. “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.”
Lauzen told Deadline that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 topping the domestic box office last year is proof that there’s a big audience for films with female heroes.
Overall, however, the top-grossing films of 2014 continued to cast females in stereotypically supporting roles. “Gender stereotypes remained abundant in last year’s films,” the report found. “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.”
The report also found that the percentage of black females and Latina characters declined slightly last year from 2013, while the percentage of Asian females increased slightly. According to the report, 11% of female characters cast in the top-grossing films were black, 4% were Latina and 4% Asian.
The report analyzed more than 2,300 characters appearing in the top 100 films at the domestic box office last year and compared them to figures from 2013 and 2002.