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24.11.2011 00:07 Age: 7 yrs

Where have all the Leading Ladies Gone?


That there’s a gender disparity in Hollywood won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but a study recently published by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism brings to light just how uneven things can be.
For example: It turns out that of the 4,342 speaking roles in the 100 highest-grossing films of 2009, just 32,8% were female. This despite the fact that women and girls, as estimated by the MPAA, bought over 50% of the domestic movie tickets that year — and, duh, make up half the population.

Highlights from the survey include:

When women do appear in films, they’re more likely to be eye candy. Jokes about Taylor Lautner’s frequent shirtlessness in the Twilight franchise notwithstanding, it seems that if a character is scantily clad, she’s stil more likely to be female. Female characters were more likely to wear “sexy attire” (25.8% of females versus 4.7% of males), “expose skin” (23.6% versus 7.4%), and be described by other characters as “attractive” (10.9% versus 2.5). What makes this more icky is that this sexualization applies even to younger female characters, with similar statistics for those in the 13-20 age range as those in the 21-39 group. Meanwhile, those figures dropped sharply for women aged 40-64 (14.1%, 14.1%, and 3.9% for attire, skin, and attractiveness, respectively).

Female filmmakers are still very, very rare. Much was made in 2009 of Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture and Best Director win over ex James Cameron, but for the most part it’s still men who dominate behind the camera. (Actually, The Hurt Locker wasn’t even included in the survey because it didn’t gross enough.) Just 3.9% of the directors, 13.5% of the writers, and 21.6% of the producers behind the top 100 films of 2009 were women.

Things haven’t really changed lately… And if you’re wondering whether 2009 was just an anomaly, the answer, sadly, is no. Most of the statistics for 2009 showed little change from the two previous years in which USC had conducted the survey, 2008 and 2009. In fact, the percentage of female speaking roles hadn’t budged at all since 2008. “We see remarkably stable trends,” noted USC Annenberg associate professor Stacy L. Smith to the LA Times. “This reveals an industry formula for gender that may be outside of people’s conscious awareness.”

… But there’s still hope for change. One key finding was that including women behind the camera could be one way to bring more females in front of it. Films with at least one female director gave 47.7% of speaking roles to women, while including at least one female writer on staff increased the percentage of female characters from 29.8% to 40.0%. (Producers’ gender had no measurable effect on the representation of women onscreen.) “Some of this is a function of the fact that we see more males working behind the scenes than females, and they’re telling the stories that they know,” said Smith. “If the numbers behind the scenes move, we’re likely to see numbers on-screen move.”

You can read the full study here

Would you like to see more leading ladies on screen, or at least leading ladies with lines?  Let us know what you think.  33.3% of the Cinematica team is definitely behind the push for more intelligent female roles and is quite confident she is the most popular female on the show...

ARTICLE VIA SLASH FILM

 


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