My Where Are the Women? project, analyzing the films of 2015 for their representation of women, is now finished, and I’ve crunched some numbers.
• only 22% of 2015’s movies had female protagonists
• critics are slightly more likely to rate a film highly if it represents women well
• mainstream moviegoers are not turned off by films with female protagonists
• movies that represent women well are just as likely to be profitable as movies that don’t, and are less risky as business propositions
Here’s what the distribution of Where Are the Women? scores looks like. As you can see, the majority of films did not depict women as people in their own right, with stories of their own to be told:
(Hover over a line for the film title and WATW score. Click here to see the chart in a separate zoomable window.)
The median WATW score is -13, and the average is almost exactly the same: -12.76. Which I think is a pretty solid indication that Hollywood movies are, overall, not very good at treating women like people.
The film with the best score for the year is The Divergent Series: Insurgent:
The problems that the female protagonist faces here include acting as protector for her meek and passive brother, and enduring a test that puts her through trials that reflect all of the Factions her people get divvied up into… which means that she is specifically required to demonstrate the full spectrum of humanity encompassed in one individual. In an entertainment environment that often sees women as less than fully human, this is a smackdown win for the notion that women are people.
But it’s the fact that film features numerous female characters, many in positions of authority, and none of them not defined as solely mothers, lovers, or otherwise adjuncts to other people that earns this film such a high score.
The film with the worst score is Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse:
Movies don’t get much worse than this when it comes to female representation. Women here are alternately dehumanized objects, literally, as when zombie female bodies become sexualized playthings for teenaged boys; support systems who will physically fight for teenaged boys, be utterly sympathetic and attuned to even their secret desires, and retain impossible gorgeousness even in life-and-death scenarios; and “hot” prizes awarded to teenaged boys, and delighted to be so. Women’s sexuality here is either commodified, ignored, denied, or treated like a joke. In every sense of the concept, women exist here almost solely for what they can do for men sexually and, occasionally, romantically.
Where Are the Women? was partially supported by a Kickstarter campaign — a HUGE thank-you to my generous Kickstarter supporters — but those funds did not begin to cover all the time, effort, and expense that went into this project.
If you find Where Are the Women? useful, interesting, or important, please support it now by: