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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

this is why Where Are the Women? is so necessary

Judging from some of the comments my Where Are the Women? posts are generating (some of which I’ve deleted because this is not an issue that has to be adjudicated over and over again), some people don’t seem to believe that there is any reason to complain about how women are represented onscreen. But once again, we have solid proof of a major problem. From The Washington Post:

Not only was there no progress in the number of female leads in top films last year, the numbers are actually more dire than they were in 2002.

So says the latest study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. According to the center, only 12 percent of protagonists in the top 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2014 were female. In 2002, it was 16 percent.

Half the human race is at the center of a major movie only 12 percent of the time. But it gets worse… although not in any way that will surprise anyone who has been paying attention:

This study examined age and racial diversity, too, and found that while male characters in their 30s and 40s were equally represented at rates of roughly 27 percent, there was a significant drop-off for female characters in their 40s. Female characters in their 30s made up 30 percent of roles, while representation of female characters in their 40s hit 17 percent.

These numbers are, of course, in the aggregate. With Where Are the Women? I’m drilling down on a movie-by-movie basis to show where, precisely, the problems are (and, by extension, how those problems could be avoided). I hope the project will make the near absence of women in film hit home in a way that statistics have a harder time doing.


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