Women accounted for just 15 percent of lead roles in the major motion pictures of 2013, according to a new report from the Center For The Study of Women In Television And Film released on Tuesday.
The report examined top 100 grossing movies of last year, and it shed a depressing light on the state of film and television today. Women of color fared just as badly as women overall in the Center For The Study of Women In Television And Film report. Of all female characters in those 100 movies, African American women made up just 14 percent, while Latinas held just 5 percent of roles and Asian actresses held 2 percent.
These figures are nothing new. In fact, the numbers are stagnant for racial diversity and falling slightly for female lead roles.
“We think of Hollywood as a very progressive place and a bastion of liberal thought,” Martha M. Lauzen, who is the executive director of the Center For The Study Of Women In Television And Film, told the New York Times. “But when you look at the numbers and the representation of women onscreen, that’s absolutely not the case. The film industry does not like change.”
The study brings us back to Cate Blanchett’s Oscars speech, which eloquently made the point that directors are afraid of movies with female leads — but needn’t be: Blanchett thanked “the audiences who went to see [Blue Jasmine] and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”
That’s not Blanchett projecting — it’s fact that movies with more believable female characters bring in more at the box office. Vocativ’s Versha Sharma and Hanna Sender tested this out recently by looking at the top 50 movies considered for the Oscars this year. They broke down which passed the Bechdel test (that means that they had more than one female character, the two women talked to each other, and they talked about something other than a man), and then they examined how much those movies made. It turned out, that though fewer than half of the movies passed the Bechdel test, those films grossed significantly more than the ones that failed:
The gender split of American moviegoers is just about 50/50 for every age group, which means that women hold half the power of the wallet over which movies make money. Why wouldn’t they want to see a nuanced, realistic depiction of gender and race that they see in their own lives? After all, films aren’t only accessible to white men who want to see themselves depicted in every role.