Study: Female Characters Under-Represented in Movies

Sandra Bullock Oscars Best Actress Nominees

The latest study on women in front of the camera finds that female characters are still significantly under-represented on the big screen.

The numbers underscore why pics like “Gravity” (pictured), toplined by a Sandra Bullock, remain a rarity at the multiplexes. Female characters accounted for only 15% of protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2013, according to the study “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” by veteran researcher Martha Lauzen, exec director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State U.

FULL REPORT: “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World”

The femme protagonist stats are up 4% from 2011, the last time the survey was conducted, but down 1% from 2002.

Female actors accounted for 30% of all speaking parts in the survey, which has examined some 7,000 screen characters across 300 pics since 2002. Only about 13% of 2013’s top 100 pics featured an equal number of female and male characters.

“Overall, we have seen little movement in the numbers of female protagonists and females as speaking characters over the last decade,” Lauzen said.  “Moreover, female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind .”

The numbers for minority females are even lower. African-American female representation on screen climbed to 14%, from 8% in 2011, but down from 15% in 2012. Hispanic characters were flat fro 2011 at 5% and up from 4% in 2002. Asian-American female characters are few and far between, accounting for 3% in 2013, down from 5% in 2011.

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  1. OppressionUnlimited says:

    Yes, I completely agree with the author on this.
    From now on they should only cast women in the roles of Mad Max, Rocky, Rambo, Thor, Wolverine, Conan, Captain America, etc.etc., and we can all go do something else besides watching movies, while they save the poor and oppressed males on the silver screen, to an audience consisting primarily of male-hating radical feminists.
    I’m sure they will be able to sustain the entertainment industry in Hollywood all by themselves from now on, considering the massive government funding they’ve received for 6 decades..

    /sarcasm off.

  2. Dale says:

    This is a problem ? It is good to know that the “war on women” is alive and well in Hollywood. Are people really this stupid ?

  3. iambicpentamaster says:

    It’s less about quantity than quality.

  4. Furger says:

    So what?

  5. Robert Vance says:

    I suppose Hollywood could stop the left’s “War on Women” but apparently has let the market decide which stars it wants to see and hear.

  6. drattastic says:

    Yes more women headlining and starring in movies that’s what we need. I know I’d frequent theaters more if there were more movies where women were sitting around a table talking and drinking coffee, winning about how screwed up men are then fighting their “friends” over that same man.

    Let’s not forget those heart pounding action movies where that 5’3″ girl kicks the crap out of multiple hulking men( granted its tiresome watching wimpy male stars do the same).

    Well maybe not.

    Look on the bright side if enough people cry about it long enough maybe the government will pass a law, they don’t read, forcing all of us to attend movies we don’t want to watch. Then all will be”fair”.

  7. In a free market, you are free to make a movie how you want to and get rewarded according to public adoption and interest. the market has set this ratio where it wants it. The market decides.

    Get over it.

  8. vincent mcgillicutty says:

    Ok. So, I have a fail-proof, suspense laden screenplay in the espionage genre, that is 50% complete. The leading role is a female (op agent). Who wants to read it?

  9. Don says:

    That’s not true! I see them starring in porn movies all the time.

  10. Jim Kelly says:

    “The numbers for minority females are even lower. African-American female representation on screen climbed to 14%, from 8% in 2011, but down from 15% in 2012. Hispanic characters were flat fro 2011 at 5% and up from 4% in 2002. Asian-American female characters are few and far between, accounting for 3% in 2013, down from 5% in 2011.”

    How does that demonstrate “under-representation”? Do African-American females represent more than 14% of the population at large (actually about 7%)? Do Asian-American females represent more than 3% of the population (actually 2.5%)? I understand why white females may have an issue, but the minority claim does not seem to hold up at all.

  11. Smokey says:

    Here is the REALITY:

    Maybe the public just doesn’t WANT to see more female characters. And maybe that goes for female moviegoers, too.

    If life is so unfair to these whiners, they can just make their own movies — and see who goes to them.

    Nobody’s stopping them.

  12. There is more women in Porn movies than men.

    • Bernie Bouck says:

      You can’t FORCE people to like an actor or a character ! Politically correct QUOTAS only work in Plato’s republic of government inspired regulation !

    • MichMike says:

      Top 100 grossing films, so the “study” is flawed and might want to look at other issues. Or maybe they might want to look at 100% of NFL cornerbacks being black and the open racism this represents?

  13. joe says:

    So What! Where is it written that women, men, children, Mexicans, Illegal aliens, Italians, etc. have to be equally represented in movies? Its the marketplace, stupid? Men are not equally represented in department stores (three floors of women’s clothing to one half floor of men’s clothing), because of the market place. Men are not equally represented in public toilet accessibility, having only one for each three women toilets. Men are not equally represented in life expectancy. Women live almost five years longer. Get over it!

  14. Jesse Jimenez says:

    They star in more porn than men, Anyone fighting for us there?

  15. Cal Ven says:

    Females are under-represented in movies? So, they cast the nasally and whining Sandra Bullock in Gravity?

  16. Jeremy says:

    I’d say it has more to do with how many more male writers there are. It’s difficult to write from the other gender’s perspective.

  17. Dutra123 says:

    Is this more evidence of Hollywood’s war on women?

  18. detjoe says:

    Female actors are over-represented in porn and they are also paid 10 times the amount male actors make, so how is that fair?

  19. Herman says:

    “Study: Female Characters Under-Represented in Movies”

    So are hermaphrodites, but you don’t hear them whining.

  20. Tired of the Hollywood malarkey? Want some movie entertainment for the whole family. I am sure the Bieber and Gaga crowd will call them corny, but that is EXACTLY why they can be enjoyed by the whole family. Check the reviews at Netflix.

    Facing the Giants

    Privately produced, Christian-themed and surprisingly good.

  21. Who cares?
    The market gets what it wants.
    That’s why the script I’m writing focuses on Hispanic women.
    Naked with guns, of course.

  22. Cathy F. says:

    Dear Cynthia,
    Please! Give me a break. Why must you feminists constantly make us women out to be victims of a male-run society? I’m sure in your fantasy world where men and women are exactly the same, it would be a travesty if only 15% of women were protagonists. But then, if they were exactly the same, what difference would it make? The truth is, the world has always been a male-dominated place. Get over it. Most women are happy they don’t have to run it. And furthermore, most women would be happier if we could go back to raising families instead of having to work outside the home in order to keep that family out of the poverty zone…that’s two jobs, by the way. We don’t really care about “under-representation” in TV and movies. If it’s a good story, we’ll go see it–and enjoy it right along with those over-represented men.

  23. icarus says:

    Well, if you want more female characters in movies, start writing more interesting roles for females in books and movies yourselves, and stop relying on men to do it for you.

  24. tater nogin says:

    Cool story, im busy making history and creating the world we live in, so could you women go make a sammich?? While im at it, stop making things hard for us and vote republican because the world already has enough fags and dykes.

  25. Perplexed says:

    Oh, the pattern is clear. Let’s raise a complaint about something that isn’t really true and use it to leverage something we can’t earn on our own. Women have such huge advantages in our culture that it is irresponsible to try and get something else. They are by far the largest number of graduates from college, law school, medical school and graduate school. Males have much higher drop out rates from high school. Don’t you have enough already?

  26. Grapost says:

    You got that right!

  27. Mike R. says:

    Writers writing what they know could be part of it, but surely a big part of it is that men are, much more often than women, the protagonists of life. It’s men that predominantly commit crimes, catch criminals, fight wars, explore, invent, found enterprises, countries, and institutions, fight, hunt, instigate migrations, and plot to seize power. Unless the action of the story centers on the protagonist’s internal mental or emotional state, it’s statistically more plausible to have a male protagonist.

    It could perhaps be argued that there are too many adventure, cop, and war movies, and too few internal or family dramas. But it’s hard to argue that women are anything other than OVERrepresented in action, adventure, and similar genres.

  28. John Mode says:

    I suggest that people, who consider themselves enlightened and well informed, read Camille Paglia’s article, “It’s A Man’s World And Always Will Be”. It’s thesis doesn’t conform to the PC crowd and for good reason…it is the truth!

  29. Leo says:

    Brought to you by the same company that likes Mel Gibson. Yeah no thanks. Horror genre is over ran with female characters. And it ruins the movie. Evil dead ruined. Dawn of the dead ruined and so it goes. Maybe stop having the men be feminine and the women be masculine huh. Does this mean for every male version of a movie we are going to start seeing a female version. Like expendabelles. Top gun 2: breasts.

  30. Uncle Sam says:

    The hypocrisy of Hollywood is on display again. Have you ever noticed that even in movies that have what very clearly appears to have a woman as the most important character, the men still get top billing?

  31. Noah Fing-Whey says:

    That’s a pretty dim view of men Fred….which I reject. Maybe this is just your confession and wishful thinking in which case…my apologies.

  32. Noah Fing-Whey says:

    Perhaps the problem is that most movies are geared toward the celebrated and alleged 10% of the population so all in all the turnout is pretty good. That’s what is happening in broadcast TV. It all depends on your perspective. A lot of the shows on TV these days need to go to PBS.

  33. Mike Morgan says:

    I think women are over represented in roles which physically they are incapable of performing
    in real life…it’s physics

    • Grapost says:

      I TOTALLY AGREE! Movies are a joke anymore with women doing things they are a physically incapable of doing and they are being inserted into past history in movies doing things women never did. Like a stupid pirate movie I saw that had a women Pirate on board engaging in sword battles. Hollywood continues to push the Feminist agenda to absurd levels.

      • Perplexed says:

        I love to see them in roles where they are playing warriors battling guys twice their size and defeating them. Those little skinny arms holding swords that are twice their size defeating these brawny guys. Then we find them in modern films serving in infantry units doing everything that guys do with no effort. I served in the infantry during the Vietnam War and there is NO woman that I have ever encountered who could cut it in combat. They wouldn’t last five minutes in some of the firefights I have seen. But keep pretending maybe someone will believe you.

    • Billy Rumble says:

      From “Silence of the Lambs”, to “Kill Bill”, to “Gravity”, women are placed in roles that in no way reflect the real world. It’s part of the creative process to put people in roles that conflict with reality. Seeing a young girl chase down a grizzled mass murderer is entertaining.

  34. DT says:

    For all the leftist-progressive types that reside in our industry, Hollywood is the single most capitalistic place on the planet. If you can make a studio money, they will celebrate you. If women put butts in seats then all we would see are more women in lead rolls but here’s what no one is saying. Women don’t want to go see other women in film. Women go to films to see men. Why you ask, because women want to be rescued by the hero and men want to be the hero. Do you think the new Wonder Woman movie will be bigger than Ironman? Hollywood is simple, make them money and you’re celebrated, lose them money and you’re decimated.

  35. Movies masquerading as “art” should reflect life. It’s probably true that women make up significantly less than 15% of world-shaking events, making their 15% appearance in movies generous. Action action action, then, soft music, low lights, here comes the woman, off come the clothes.

  36. It’s not how many females characters are represented in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, it’s the liberal female philosophy that pervades the entire business and the products it puts out!

  37. Noah Fing-Whey says:

    A lot of people have stopped watching movies starring men. What’s the explanation for that?

  38. Joe poe says:

    Wow. People on this board are super sexist. No one here watch The Hunger Games or Gravity? Great films with great leads and strong characters that are also women? Or what of Star Wars? Avengers? 1984? Some of the strongest characters are women, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, to all the Republicans who came on board from the Drudge, how about the main character in Atlas Shrugged (dreadful movie btw)? Women are just as capable as men in becoming action heroes. It’s all about compelling characters and an engaging story, not steroids and boobies (otherwise the GI Joe reboot would of been amazing since it starred Steroid Rocky Maivia).

    If you are a dude, then hopefully you had sex, and if you did, I’m sure plenty of encounters she was on top too ;)

    We live in a world where women are as important as men, no matter what era. Not more, not less. Anyone who says otherwise is an a$$hole one way or another.

    • Don B. Redekulous says:

      Joe poe – are you serious? Sure women are as important as men, period. Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…. Sounds equally important to me.

      But we’re talking about a business that must make money in order to continue. It’s not a matter of relative importance. It’s who draws a crowd. The problem in Hollywood is they are doing everything they can to drive away movie-goers no matter who is starring. As far as movies with female leads, maybe the issue is that these movies are far more likely to insult the very viewers they desperately want. If someone puts out a movie geared toward women and women don’t even bother showing up blame the product.

  39. James Cottle says:

    sooo, we want to legislate equal sexes in movies. Then it goes to: % of- gays, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.

    Try mandates on actor actresses and you will end up with attendance similar to WNBA.

  40. Fred C Schwartz says:

    …and what percentage of producers, and what percentage are directors? What percentage are script writers? How do the box office receipts stand on this matter? How many major studios are headed by women?

    This article leaves a lot on the table

  41. ensor martin says:

    What about dwarfs. What about native americans.

  42. J Rogowski says:

    Just shows the flaws that define an actor.

  43. BeenThereTwice says:


    All you Hollywood writers will now only write scripts with 50% men and 50% women. or we will close your down.

    And any artist not following the laws of equality before creativity will be blacklisted from the public square.


  44. AlexU says:

    I guess Hollywood is part of the war on women. Ironic.

    • Perplexed says:

      It may or may not be ‘dim’ but it is pretty much on the mark. Either you don’t know men or you are being politically correct. Typical!

  45. And your point (agenda) is?

  46. Joe Buffington says:

    Black female representation is 14% while they are <7% of the population — sounds like too many.

  47. Ron Jeremy says:

    Clearly the people who did this study dont watch porn.

  48. Dan Valone says:

    Interesting. White men represent a single digit percentage in the NBA

  49. Sal says:

    It’s time to pass legislation to require a 50-50 mix. Perhaps the Justice Department will undertake an investigation. Oops, I forgot, nothing will happen since Obama’s donors run Hollywood.

    • BeenThereTwice says:

      i AGREE.

      Time to force artists, writers and all creative people to observe the Equality in Creativity Laws.

      As an artist myself, I think it is unfair that successful people make more money than unsuccessful people.




      you get the point

    • Michael says:

      It would be impossible to legislate this anyways as the study was of the top 100 most profitable films, not from all films. There are a lot of films that have a higher female representation, it just comes down to the fact that chick flicks rarely become blockbuster hits.

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