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.”

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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.