North American audiences were almost twice as likely to see male characters as female characters in the top grossing films of 2018, according to the latest annual report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at California’s San Diego State University.
The report, It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing Films of 2018, shows a drop in the percentage of female major characters last year but an increase in the percentage of female protagonists.
Compiled by the Center’s executive director Dr Martha M Lauzen, the report is based on an analysis of more than 2,500 characters appearing in the 100 top domestic grossing films of 2018.
Only 35% of the films featured ten or more female characters in speaking roles and 82% had 10 or more male characters in speaking roles. Females comprised 35% of all speaking characters, up from 34% in 2017, and 36% of major characters, down from 37% in 2017.
The percentage of films featuring female protagonists increased to 31% in 2018, rebounding from 24% in 2017 and ahead of the 29% from 2016.
The report suggests that female representation on screen depends heavily on female representation behind the scenes: in films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 57% of protagonists, whereas in films with exclusively male directors and/or writers females accounted for only 21% of protagonists.
In its section on race and ethnicity, the report says the percentage of black females in films increased from 16% in 2017 to 21% last year, while the percentage of Latinas decreased from 7% in 2017 to 4%.
The percentage of Asian females increased from 7% to 10%, but the report said this was due largely to the film Crazy Rich Asians. When that surprise hit was excluded from the analysis, Asians accounted for 8% of all female characters, only slightly above the 7% in 2017.