White Men Still Talk the Most in Movies

Nearly 70 percent of dialogue in films comes from men, USC study finds

For all the talk about 2017 being a landmark year for women in film — with the superheroine summer hit “Wonder Woman” and box office winner “Girls Trip” —  a new study shows there’s still a ways to go.

The presence of white men continues to dominate movies both in front of the camera and behind it, according to a new USC study.

This new study comes from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab (SAIL), which created a tool to analyze more than 1,000 scripts, which included 7,000 characters and more than 53,000 pieces of dialogue.

Men tend to speak more in movies and tend to take up most of the screen space, according to the study. Out of the pieces of dialogue, men had more than 37,000 while women had little more than 15,000. That means men speak roughly 70 percent of all film dialogue.

In terms of characters, women played upwards of 2,000 roles while men acted in more than 4,900 parts.

Not only did the software record disparities in gender, age and race, but also dialogue content.

Researchers also found that gender and racial stereotypes are reinforced on the big screen: Female characters tend to speak more positively and talk about things like family. Meanwhile male characters talk about achievement and use more swear words. People of color tend to talk more about sex, while black characters use more swear words.

The 2017 film season has seen a spate of successful female-led films, like “Wonder Woman,” which became the highest-grossing summer film and “Girls Trip,” which had the biggest opening for an adult comedy in 2017 so far.

But change is slow, when you consider a Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University study released earlier this year. It analyzed the top 100 grossing films of 2016 and found that only 32 percent of the 2,595 female characters actually had speaking roles, down 1 percentage point from 2015.

Last year also saw a number of female-led films at the box office, including “Ghostbusters,” “Hidden Figures” and “Bad Moms.”

Data from the San Diego study also shows that films with at least one female director and/or writer feature higher percentages of female protagonists and major female characters in comparison to films with exclusively male directors and/or writers.

Indeed, the USC study found that when there were more women in the writers’ room, female character representation on screen was on average 50 percent higher. However, there were seven times more male writers than female ones and almost 12 times more male directors than female ones, the study found.