Cate Blanchett Was Right – Women Making Little-to-No Progress in Landing Major Movie Roles

Cate Blanchett Was Right – Women Making Little-to-No Progress in Landing Major Movie Roles

A new study finds that females comprised only 15 percent of protagonists and 29 percent of major characters in 2013's highest grossing films

A week after Cate Blanchett railed against the lack of quality roles for women in mainstream Hollywood films, new data proves the “Blue Jasmine” Oscar-winner's point.

A comprehensive study by San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film determined that women represented only 15 percent of protagonists in the 100 top-grossing films of 2013, 29 percent of major characters, and 30 percent of all speaking characters. Further, only 13 percent of those films had either an equal number of major female and male characters, or more major female characters than male characters, the study called “It's a Man's (Celluloid) World” found.

Also read: Oscars: Cate Blanchett Rips Hollywood for Treating Women as a ‘Niche’ Audience

Comparisons with ratios in 2011 and 2002 further illustrate how little progress has been made. The percentage of female protagonists rose 4 points above 2011 levels in 2013, but still fell 1 point short of the 2002 figure. The percent of female major characters is down 4 points from 2011 but up 2 points from 2002.

And as for the amount of women in speaking characters last year, that is down 3 percent from 2011 but up 2 percent from 2002.

“Overall, we have seen little movement in the numbers of female protagonists and females as speaking characters over the last decade,” Martha Lauzen, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, commented. “Moreover, female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind.”

Also read: Women on Broadway: New Study Reveals Grim Statistics (Exclusive)

The study recognized 17 percent of all characters as “leaders,” and found that there was a significantly larger proportion of male characters (21 percent) then female characters (8 percent) portrayed as such.

The numbers are even more dismal when broken down by age and race. Caucasians made up a vast majority of female characters, at 73 percent; African American (14 percent), Latina (5 percent), Asian (3 percent), other worldly (3 percent), and other (2 percent) characters take up the remaining quarter of the proverbial pie.

More than half of female characters were in their 20s (26 percent) and 30s (28 percent), while males were predominantly in their 30s (27 percent) and 40s (31 percent).  Only 30 percent of women characters were 40 or older, but 55 percent of male characters represent that older demographic.

  • Dan

    It would be interesting to see how those numbers compare to real life in-the-workforce stats wherever comparable.

  • Jake P Hall

    Cate has plenty of money and produce and distribute her own films and series for women. Why is she complaining about anything after working for a confirmed child abuser (emotional and mental 1993 custody case 39 page ruling) and then praising him in her Oscar Speech?

    • rin

      She didn't praise him she thanked him for the opportunity there's a difference.

      • shutupandknit

        I do believe she praised him at other award shows. But the bigger question is, why is she consorting with him professionally?

        • Scott

          Because being a feminist is hard and not fun when it isn't convenient for your career/headlines.

          • shutupandknit

            I wouldn't call anyone in the current crop feminists. For crying out loud they strip to their skivvies to stay famous.

  • Ann

    I'd like to have the same review for top-rating scripted drama TV shows. Much more positive, surely?

  • Eric

    I wonder how this compares to the percentage of female filmmakers (writers, producers, and directors) working on the same top-grossing films cited in the study? Film is a medium still largely dominated by white males, and people tend to tell stories about characters who look like them.

  • Steve

    So because the movies that made more money starred men, they need to make more movies that star women? Is that the logic I'm reading here? Movies aren't just a game where people play pretend. It's a fucking multi-billion dollar industry and of course they will go with the things that make them the most money. Ridiculous that people are so pretentious about stupid shit like this. Go cry me a river.

    • Simon

      That's not what the article says. Movies starring women are still considered niche, while recent blockbusters like Bridemaids have proven that wrong. In other words, Hollywood needs to wake up!

      • sarthak

        Do producers stop woman starrer films from making money . it will be good if propagandist like you wake up.

        • bigyaz

          If you can't write semi-literate English you really shouldn't be commenting on stories.

    • Sabran

      Movies with women in it make money. The problem is they can't get movie companies to invest in them, because they think they don't make money

  • icaito

    It is not rocket science. A good number of films are of historical themes pertaining to the US, and in the history of this country White males have been predominant players.

    As we progress into time and our present ends up being these generations’ past we will see a natural convergence into atmospheres where characters other-than-White males will be in the filmographies’ ascent.

    I will very much like it when we get to that point, presenting stories compelling enough. Just as much as I and many millions more enjoy it now.

  • Wendy

    As a woman working in the Industry, I've had my eye on the many articles out there lately about these statistics. It's nice to see the conversation becoming more widely spread.
    Now for the next step. HOW do we bring more balance to the Industry? In an effort to engage Industry influencers and leaders in a conversation around HOW, I am in the early planning stages to host a Summit for this purpose. Anyone interested in being a part?

    • joey

      write your own movie with all women and make it good, thats all you have to do. Stop reading articles, i swear women are the 2nd definition for squeaky wheel, right behind a literal squeaky wheel.

      • Sabran

        Still need money….

        • SissiePooh

          Crowdfunding, perhaps? If it worked for ‘Veronica Mars,’ it could work for other independent films. Present the idea to the public as an alternative to the ‘same old, same old’ that Hollywood's hierarchy has been churning out for too long, and convince them to make an investment in films which accurately portray Americans, especially those who wind up getting unfairly stereotyped or are rendered invisible (like persons of color, senior citizens and people with disabilities).

    • suziwins

      i am interested…perhaps you could start a private mailing list with emails….just starting on an idea for a movie about an older woman….and I really believe all ages and both sexes will respond…However there is definatly a disproportionate amount of power and leadership in the film industry…it's a white male world…and the focus is violence, sci fi and sports….that;s what they know…

  • Naut Hap'Ning

    Improvement? Why are we reducing the actors to their genders? Maybe we should do a study on how many gingers versus blondes star in lead roles? Or, we could do a study on how many English versus Americans star in lead roles.

    Dividing people by their phenotypes, gender, or anything else is divisive and builds conflict. Instead, why don't we focus on telling new and vibrant stories? There are plenty of stories with strong female and male roles that will never be told, because that's how Hollywood works. Hollywood is about money.

    Also, based on the nature of this study, they are looking at only the best selling movies, not all movies made. Maybe, they should ask why female lead role movies don't sell as well?

    Movies is entertainment, not equality. If we want to change who sells best, maybe we should ask if what we're selling is something people want to see?

    • Sabran

      I think a top actress like Cate Blanchett has more insight on what film roles are available for females…more so than you would.

  • shutupandknit

    How do you take women seriously as professionals in the acting field, when they just act like overpaid mannequins? I see more content on any one single actress where they are posing in a laddy mag, cosmetics or retail advertising. They really do very little of consequence on film. If they really wanted to make films then they would learn how to take control of their situation by producing their own, instead of whining about it. As far as Cate Blanchett whining about it, she takes on primarily “artistic” roles, not brainless commercial films.

    Be intelligent about your career or go back to peddling beauty cream Ms Blanchett.

    • Sabran

      It's funny how you refer to female actor as being mannequins, because you just made Cate Blanchetts argument for her. Female actors just don't want to be in a movie as a side kick that looks pretty. Believe it or not, they actually want to act.

      • shutupandknit

        I think you have misunderstood my comment, it would require you to put it into context with the rest of the post. In particular the sentence that follows it, in which I refer to these actresses work in modeling gigs for laddy mags, cosmetics and couture advertisements. Those are irrelevant activities to being taken seriously as a professional actor.

        I also pointed out that to get better content out that they should take control of the situation and produce. Ms Blanchett as far as I can tell opts to only work in a specific area of film and does not produce. She is her own roadblock waiting for someone else to change her standing.

  • killer3000ad

    Fox News contributes to this as well. They hire blonde barbie doll newscasters and talking heads whose job is to sit around, look pretty, regurgitate talking points without knowing what they are talking about and suck in the white conservative demographic.