Fewer women appeared in lead roles in major Hollywood movies in 2014 than in 2002. Apologies to anyone pinning her hopes on slow, steady progress.
That's according to a new study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, reported by the Washington Post. (It's the sequel to their depressing study of female directors.) In 2002, the slice of protagonists in "the top 100 highest-grossing domestic films" was 16 percent; the share was just 12 percent last year. Also, women more often land in supporting roles. "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," said Martha Lauzen, the center's executive director.
Oh, and then there's the age factor:
This study examined age and racial diversity, too, and found that while male characters in their 30s and 40s were equally represented at rates of roughly 27 percent, there was a significant drop-off for female characters in their 40s. Female characters in their 30s made up 30 percent of roles, while representation of female characters in their 40s hit 17 percent.
But it does feel that if you pull back, there's an uptick in compelling roles available for women—witness Maggie Gyllenhaal's Golden Globe acceptance speech, where she praised "the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film." Post writer Soraya Nadia McDonald squares the discrepancy like so, before outlining some praiseworthy examples of diverse casting:
It's not impossible for both of these circumstances to be true, though it suggests the roles to which Gyllenhaal is referring are more easily found in smaller films and independent projects, while bigger tentpole films are still reinforcing stereotypical gender roles and reducing women to supporting characters.
[Tumbleweeds made of crumpled-up movie tickets blow past making a soft sighing sound that, if you pay really close attention, could be "Transformerssss..... Michael Baaaayyyyyy....]
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