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):
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Dead Man Down
Instructions Not Included
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 Big Wedding
The Great Gatsby
Fast & Furious 6
We’re the Millers
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
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)
women as sole protagonists:
Zero Dark Thirty
The Bling Ring
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
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.”