9:51 pm - 05/15/2012

Study: females dramatically underrepresented in top 2011 films (and the Pope is Catholic, too!)

Females were “dramatically under-represented” in the United States’ top 100 grossing films last year, accounting for 33% of all characters at a time when they made up nearly 51% of the U.S. population, according to a study being released Tuesday.

The 33% figure represented an increase over the findings of a similar study in 2002, when females comprised 28% of the movie characters, said the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

But while there were more female characters overall, fewer of them were “clearly identifiable protagonists,” the study found -- 11% in 2011 versus 16% in 2002. “Thus, while there are more female characters on screen today, fewer stories are told from a female character’s perspective,” according to Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.

Her title for the report: "It's a Man's (Celluloid) World."

The report mirrored a study of women's behind-the-scenes participation that the center released in January, which found that women made up 18% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing movies last year. That was only one percentage point higher than when the center began studying employment figures in 1998.

Lauzen’s latest report said that, on average, female characters in last year’s films were younger than the male characters, less likely to be portrayed as leaders and more likely to be identified by their marital status. It said that 73% of the female characters were Caucasian, 8% African American, 5% Latina and 5% Asian (with the rest in smaller categories, including aliens and animals).

Source, and the original study (thanks to sunoftheskye @ ontd_political!)

Honestly, this doesn't surprise me. The fact that the Bechdel test even exists - and is frequently failed - is depressing enough, imo.

ONTD, what are some of your favorite movies with strong (not necessarily action hero!) female characters? Hell, might as well throw in some book recommendations, too.
m_pendulum 16th-May-2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Same. Like the ending to me is actually something you see a lot in some early feminist lit: self-sacrifice, suicide, going into madness, etc because it was the only way for women to beat the system. So when they linked her lobotomy into meaning freedom I was like: OMG IF THIS MOVIE WAS WRITTEN BETTER AND LESS MALE GAZE THIS POINT WOULD BE PERFECT!
lestat 16th-May-2012 02:15 am (UTC)
I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY PICKING THAT UP AT ONE POINT. the self sacrifice was what really sealed the deal for me so i really, really was down for it.
m_pendulum 16th-May-2012 02:25 am (UTC)
OMG YES! No I discuss the movie with ever seems to get that :)
I feel like there is so much good in that movie, but it needed a good writer to really bring it out. When I watched it with my brother he was like "that's all good and it make sense, but the movie doesn't show that." T.t
lestat 16th-May-2012 02:28 am (UTC)
it's worse when you consider the animated stuff they had for it as well. i totally would've just gone for babydoll as some interdimensional badass who collects team mates and friends but n o p e.
iamtheliquorr 16th-May-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
That was exactly what I liked about it. It did a lot to redeem the film for me tbh
m_pendulum 16th-May-2012 03:29 am (UTC)
This makes me so happy. I felt like I was crazy for so long.
iamtheliquorr 16th-May-2012 04:03 am (UTC)
:) This whole thread makes me feel reassured tbh

So many people I know hate this movie and while they have valid reasons, it made me wonder how I, as a feminist, could in good conscience like it. I realized it was because the ending rang so true for me. Sometimes you just fight and fight but in the end you can't beat the system.
m_pendulum 16th-May-2012 04:12 am (UTC)
That has pretty much been my issue. As a feminist I feel like I should hate this movie, but I see so much feminist subtext in it that I feel despite it having a horrible script I can't hate it.

The ending is so powerful and the whole issue of women being lobotomized at their guardian's consent is true to history. Even the whole aspect of seeing the mental asylum as a brothel has so much subtext about women in mental health and Ophelia fetish and how women get abused in places that are supposed to make them better...ugh I wish someone else had written this movie because there is such good stuff there.
iamtheliquorr 16th-May-2012 04:19 am (UTC)
Exactly! I think the movie could've been really powerful in the hands of a better scriptwriter b/c as it is all this potentially good stuff got buried under painfully obvious exploitation.

I wonder if I'm giving the script too much credit or if they were trying to somehow appease both female and male viewers at the same time and failed miserably.
m_pendulum 16th-May-2012 04:25 am (UTC)
I think it is clear that the audience they were aiming for was male. If they even thought about women at all they would have allowed the women to actually get hurt (besides Rocket V.V). Like women enjoy seeing women be bad-asses and get battle wounds. Plus it added a sense of tension.

The script had mature subtext, but they overpowered it with all the fan-boy images and stuff, which I can enjoy on a level, but they never allow the subtext to actually come to the surface.
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