28.4% of speaking characters were female

I keep saying.

Where have all the women gone in movies?

Despite the success of recent female-driven movies such as “Bridesmaids” and the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” series, female representation in popular movies is at its lowest level in five years, according to a study being released Monday by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

I keep talking about this. You’d think women didn’t exist, looking at most movie trailers. Even the animated ones – all the toys or all the animals – they’re male.

Among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, the study reported, 28.4% of speaking characters were female. That’s a drop from 32.8% three years ago, and a number that has stayed relatively stagnant despite increased research attention to the topic and several high-profile box-office successes starring women.

We also need stats on amount of speaking, screen time, billing, importance to the plot, action – a lot of things.

When they are on-screen, 31.6% of women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the five years the USC researchers have been studying the issue.

For teen girls, the number who are provocatively dressed is even higher: 56.6% of teen girl characters in 2012 movies wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20% since 2009.

Because that’s why they’re there. To be hawt.

This is a barrier. I’m not being an extremist ideologue in saying that.


  1. maudell says

    Talking about this topic is an authoritarian approach to kill creativity.
    Clearly, it just so happens that all the good stories involve men and all the good actors are men, that’s how the chips fall naturally.
    [who needs it, but… /sarcasm. The Turing test fails when the trolls sound like satire.]

  2. Jade says

    Disgust with that situation and desperation led me searching in the far corners of online movies. I found Japanese fantasy genre films to be unexpectedly refreshing. Physically and mentally strong female leads (with more than just one strong woman in good roles) who kick butt, wear clothes, and have actual believable romance and character development. Being fantasy, some of them are expected cheesy, but good grief, what a relief to watch in comparison to any mainstream US offering. As an official adopted Aunt, I love turning the kids on to these as an alternative.
    We’re being dragged backwards in so many areas.

  3. pHred says

    Jade can you give some suggestions ? We watch Hayao Miyazaki movies but need more since we have run out of them. I would really like to see a similar study on the utter dreck that is being produced for children these days.

  4. Jade says

    Howl’s Moving Castle – oh yeah. We’ve watched all of those. The kids are teens now, and I’m cool with them watching romantic/erotic sexy scenes, but draw my line at the rapey / gratuitous sex scenes in most American movies. We just watched Ashura, Painted Skin: The Resurrection, and Throne of Blood. Only one woman in it, but I highly recommend Throne of Blood. We watched Macbeth right before it so the kids would pick up on the subtleties, and Akira Kurosawa’s Lady Macbeth had them riveted. (Also led into checking out Kabuki, which is how we found Ashura).
    Resurrection was beautifully done (despite the really crappy wolf-men), but the most interesting take away for the kids was that the bad kingdom priest was the only Caucasian in the movie – we had a good discussion of bad guy racial stereotypes and how they would differ depending on where you’re from.
    They’re also cycling back through Miss Marple and Nero Wolfe. They now can’t make up their minds if they want to go become Japanese or go live in the thirties.

  5. jagwired says

    We also need stats on amount of speaking, screen time, billing, importance to the plot, action – a lot of things.

    I get the impression that the screen time for female roles needed to be shortened to allow for all those extra explosions.

  6. says

    Also would be interested to see statistics on how many movies with female characters among the major roles have just ONE such woman. I’m sick to death of seeing movie posters with anywhere from 2 to 4 or even more men, with one woman. These are unlikely, in my view, to give the female character any real scope or dimensions; she’s there to enhance our view of the leading man, so we can see how he interacts not just with his buddies and the baddies, but with a woman, seeming to stand in for all women. Better than having no women in the movies, I suppose, but not much…

  7. says

    pHred, I know you said you’ve run out of Miyazaki films, but just in case, since the standard US version hasn’t been released yet: have you seen From Up On Poppy Hill? The subtitled Japanese version is available though not in any US stores for rent that I’ve seen yet, and it is lovely. Not Miyazaki’s finest given that there’s so much competition, but having just recently seen it, coming off all Hollywood’s latest I was blown away by the sheer presence of women in the film. The protagonist and the majority of the named characters are female, and the plot is driven by women coming into (and thereby saving) what was once quite literally a boys’ clubhouse. Just saying, in case you haven’t caught it yet.

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