Hollywood Sexism Continues: Women Had Just One Third of Speaking Roles in 2015 Movies, Study Shows

This year’s “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” reveals only 22 percent of protagonists were female

Women accounted for just one third of all speaking characters in films in 2015, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, a new study has found.

This year’s “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” examined 2,500 female characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films, and the study revealed only 34 percent of major characters were female, representing a modest increase from 2014. However, they do also represent recent historical highs.

The study also uncovered that females comprised only 22 percent of protagonists in all of the films considered, which actually represents a 10 percent increase over 2014, an exceptionally bad year for women in film, according to the researchers. The figure is six percent higher than it was in 2002.

“We saw marked increase in the percentage of female protagonists last year,” Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University said. “We will need to see a couple more years of data before we’ll know whether this is the beginning of an upward trend or if 2015 was an unusually good but aberrant year for female characters.”

Figures representing female characters of color have not changed much, although there was a slight increase in black female characters since last year. There was no change in the percentage of Latina characters, and there were fewer Asian actresses in movies in 2015.

“It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” also found that women of color were less likely to be major characters in films than white women. Thirty-eight percent of films cast females as major characters, whereas 27 percent of black, Latina and Asian women were major characters in 2015 films.

Women accounted for just 18 percent of antagonists in the 100 films considered, and the percentage of male characters in their 50s is almost twice that of female characters in the same age range, coming in at 17 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Interestingly, in films directed by women, 40 percent of the speaking roles and 50 percent of protagonists were female, whereas in movies directed by men, women only accounted for 30 percent of the speaking roles and 13 percent of the protagonists.

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