The number of female protagonists in the 100 top-grossing domestic films declined year-over-year in 2017, according to a study released today by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University. Women repped 24% of that total, down 5% from 2016.
The study, titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the 100 Top Films of 2017,” revealed a mixed bag of data on female representation in the movies, but little to show for in gains. In analyzing 2,361 characters appearing in last year’s 100 top-grossing films, it found that females accounted for 37% of all major characters, unchanged from a year ago, and 34% of all speaking characters, up 2%.
Female representation did grow in films that featured at least one woman director and/or writer: the protagonist percentage grew to 45%, the major character percentage at 48% and the speaking parts lifted to 42%. For the protagonists in movies with at least one male director and or writer, that protagonist number was 20%.
Among the positive data trends were among roles for females of color. Black females grew from 14% to 16% in 2017, Latinas from 3% to 6%, and Asian females from 6% to 7%. Still, 74% of major female characters were white.
Overall, moviegoers were almost twice as likely to see male characters on the big screen at the multiplex in 2017 — among all films, for example, only 32% featured 10 or more female characters in speaking roles, compared with 79% in that metric for male characters.
The analyzed 2,361 characters appearing in the 100 top grossing films of 2017 (not including foreign films.) It was compiled by the center’s executive director Dr. Martha M. Lauzen.