Female characters still lacking in film: research

Actress Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman (above).

NEW YORK • Wonder Woman made a box-office roar last year, but talk that Hollywood had opened more doors for women has been silenced by the findings of a new study.

According to research from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, many movies do not even feature female characters who are not white.

Of the top 100 films of last year, 43 did not have a black female character, 65 had no Asian or Asian-American female character and 64 did not have a Latina character.

Women may make up more than half the population, but, in the most popular films, female-speaking characters are outnumbered by men two to one.

Less than a third of all speaking characters were women in the top films from 2007 to last year.

Only 33 of last year's top 100 movies had a female in a leading or co-leading role.

Ninety-four featured no gay, bisexual or transgender women.

Only one transgender character appeared in any of the top films between 2014 and last year. The movie was Hot Pursuit (2015), with a depiction of a transgender prostitute that was panned by some quarters.

And only 2.5 per cent of characters in those movies had a disability.

The findings show that for all the talk about the need for representation on screen, and the heightened scrutiny in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite and the #MeToo movements, Hollywood has been slow to enact much change.

"Those expecting a banner year for inclusion will be disappointed," said Ms Stacy Smith, founding director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which did the research.

Also, according to the report, of the 1,223 people who directed the 1,100 top movies between 2007 and last year, only 43 were women.

"If we're not seeing inclusion behind the camera, then the patterns on screen are going to be impervious to change.

"The only way to make storytelling move is by thinking differently in how directors, writers... get attached to projects," said Ms Smith.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Female characters still lacking in film: research'. Print Edition | Subscribe