Females were “dramatically under-represented” in the United States’ top 100 grossing films last year, accounting for 33% of all characters at a time when they made up nearly 51% of the U.S. population, according to a study being released Tuesday.
The 33% figure represented an increase over the findings of a similar study in 2002, when females comprised 28% of the movie characters, said the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
But while there were more female characters overall, fewer of them were “clearly identifiable protagonists,” the study found -- 11% in 2011 versus 16% in 2002. “Thus, while there are more female characters on screen today, fewer stories are told from a female character’s perspective,” according to Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.
Her title for the report: "It's a Man's (Celluloid) World."
The report mirrored a study of women's behind-the-scenes participation that the center released in January, which found that women made up 18% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing movies last year. That was only one percentage point higher than when the center began studying employment figures in 1998.
Lauzen’s latest report said that, on average, female characters in last year’s films were younger than the male characters, less likely to be portrayed as leaders and more likely to be identified by their marital status. It said that 73% of the female characters were Caucasian, 8% African American, 5% Latina and 5% Asian (with the rest in smaller categories, including aliens and animals).
Photo: Jessica Chastain, left, and Octavia Spencer in 2011's "The Help." Credit: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks