more by MaryAnn

“she seems to be very opinionated when watching a movie” | by maryann johanson

only 18 percent of 2013’s US wide releases are exclusively about girls or women (and 60 percent exclusively about men)


It took no time at all for a comment to pop up on my Google+ posting of a link to my post here “attention, Hollywood: the wild success of Gravity means audiences have no trouble identifying with a female protagonist” scolding me for my ignorance about women in movies. Cuz what would I know? Tim McDonald schools me:

There are plenty of popular movies out there already that have female protagonists.

Not that he named one.

But I figured I would test his hypothesis.

So I took a look at Box Office Mojo and counted how many films will have gotten a wide release in North America by the end of 2013. (This is a way to measure what sorts of movies Hollywood makes, because they make up the vast majority of those wide releases.) The figure is: 141.

Then I counted how many films have women in leading roles. And here’s what I came up with:

women as coprotagonists with men in a nonromantic duo or romantic couple (some of these are a stretch, but I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible):
Promised Land
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Warm Bodies
Identity Thief
Side Effects
Safe Haven
Dark Skies
Dead Man Down
The Purge
Before Midnight
Pacific Rim
The Conjuring
Kick-Ass 2
Closed Circuit
Instructions Not Included
The Family
Insidious: Chapter 2
The Spectacular Now
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Thor: The Dark World
Saving Mr Banks

women as coprotagonists in a mixed-gender ensemble (again, some of these are a stretch):
The Croods
Evil Dead
The Big Wedding
The Great Gatsby
Fast & Furious 6
Red 2
We’re the Millers
You’re Next

Basically, the duo and ensemble films also count as movies with male protagonists, so in any comparison, these counts cancel out each other.

I’m not sure (because I haven’t seen them), but there could potentially be a woman or women as at least coprotagonists:
Texas Chainsaw 3D
The Last Exorcism: Part II
Baggage Claim
Black Nativity
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (though I really think this cannot count, because even if Madea is the unequivocal central character, she’s not an actual woman by any stretch of the term)
American Hustle

women as sole protagonists:
Zero Dark Thirty
Beautiful Creatures
The Call
Spring Breakers
The Host
The Bling Ring
The Heat
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Blue Jasmine
Enough Said
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

So there you go. Minus all the films listed here, and for 2013, there will be by year’s end 86 wide releases with unequivocal male protagonists, with no women in those films who could conceivably be deemed anything approaching a coprotagonist. And only 16 where the same could be said about women leading a story. That’s 18 percent of big movies for 2013 that could be said to be exclusively about a girl or girls, a woman or women (and many of those movies still feature, in supporting roles, male characters who are more interesting, more fleshed out, and with more to do than women in male-dominated films). And 60 percent of movies that are exclusively about men.

Hint: That’s not “plenty.”

  • RogerBW

    And then we can get to the portrayal of those sole-protagonist women: as crazed psychic murderers, as casual criminals led into wrongdoing by a man… to pick just two from your list.

  • Danielm80

    Y’know, if those two reformed and teamed up to fight crime, you could sell it as a procedural on CBS.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    I made no judgments on whether any of the movies listed are good or bad, feminist or not. Just whether girls or women are the central characters.

  • RogerBW

    Yes, indeed.

    I was suggesting that even once that problem is solved, one needs to look at the way female protagonists often have much less agency than their male counterparts. Hollywood hates women… in depth.

  • Beowulf

    “I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in here!”

    Such as it ever was…such as it ever was….

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