Despite blockbuster hits like “Wonder Woman” and “Girls Trip,” the number of female heroes on screen actually dipped
Even Wonder Woman couldn’t save 2017.
At first glance, the past year was a good one for women in film. “Wonder Woman” made over $400 million at the domestic box office and “Girls Trip” pulled in $115 million in U.S. receipts. The top-grossing movie of 2017 was “The Last Jedi,” featuring stalwarts like Laura Dern, the late Carrie Fisher and relative newcomer Daisy Ridley. But those big figures belie a darker picture: a dip in the percentage of female protagonists on screen.
That’s according to a recently released study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, which reveals that women occupied just 24% of protagonist roles in the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2017. That’s down from 2016, when females held hero roles in 29% of the 100 most commercially successful movies in the United States.
Women also hold leading roles in different genres compared to men. Per the analysis, females were mostly likely to appear as protagonists in comedies and dramas, and least likely to be cast as the main character in animated features and sci-fi flicks. By contrast, men are likelier to occupy center stage in action flicks, comedies and animated features.
Appearing on celluloid is also no guarantee of a solid role. The study found that male characters were most likely to be depicted as having work-related goals on-screen (42% vs 34%), whereas the women cast were likelier than men to have objectives related to their personal lives (20% vs 13%). 88% of political leader characters cast were men, though women occupied half of religious roles.
Despite the commercial and critical success of actresses like the 51-year-old Laura Dern and “Lady Bird” star Laurie Metcalf, who is 62, older women still have trouble getting screen time. A plurality of casted female characters (32%) were in their 20s as compared to male characters, 31% of whom were in their 30s. Just 13% of female characters were over 50 years of age. By contrast, 19% of male characters were over 50 years old.
Meanwhile, the proportion of actresses of color on screen increased slightly— albeit from a very low base. The percentage of black females rose from 14% to 16%, Latinas from 3% to 7% and Asian women from 6% to 7%.
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