Film Forward

Women Led 3 Of 2017’s Biggest Films. How Well Were They Represented In The Other 97?

Some losses and some gains.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

Even in the year of Wonder Woman, representation of female protagonists in film wasn't all that super. According to a new study, movies with women in the leading roles decreased five points, from 29 percent in 2016 to 24 percent in 2017, when looking at the 100 highest-grossing projects of the year.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released its annual "It's a Man's (Celluloid) World" study, proving that just because movies such as Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the aforementioned Wonder Woman dominated the box office, there's still work to be done. Yes, it had been decades since something like this had happened, but what about everything else? It seems that Belle, Rey, and Diana Prince were outliers, not the norm.

Some may be surprised with this news, what with the #MeToo movement and Time's Up initiative being so integral in the pop culture zeitgeist. You have to remember that films don't exactly pop up overnight and movies from last year would have been planned for likely a few years. If the industry truly absorbs what has been happening lately, it will likely be a little while until we see these numbers change significantly.

"In an awards season when talk about women and gender has been top of mind, we need to separate hyperbole from reality," the executive director of the center, Martha Lauzen, said in a statement. "The numbers do not yet reflect claims of a tectonic or massive shift in the film industry."

That said, there are a few silver linings to consider with this new data — specifically in terms of diversity of the 37 percent of major female characters, a statistic which remained flat from 2016 to 2017. 

Turns out movies saw an uptick for women of color, with representation of Black women increasing from 14 percent in 2016 to 16 percent in 2017, representation of Latinas increasing from 3 percent in 2016 to 7 percent in 2017, and representation of Asian women increasing from 6 percent in 2016 to 7 percent in 2017. These numbers might not seem all that impressive, but they are record levels.

We may have gotten a mixed bag from this study, but there is hope for the future.

(H/T: Variety | The Wrap)

Cover image via Clay Enos / Warner Bros.

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