From Cate Blanchett’s neurotic divorcée in Blue Jasmine to Sandra Bullock’s tortuous struggle back to Earth in Gravity, this year’s Oscars ceremony celebrated a batch of phenomenal female performances. So it may come as some surprise that just 15% of protagonists in 2013’s 100 top grossing films were played by women, compared with 71% male and 14% made up of male/female ensembles..
The stat is one of several figures revealed in a new study that underlines the extent of female under-representation on the silver screen. Conducted by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the research shows that while the number of female protagonists has risen by 4% since 2011, the figures are down 1% from 2002.
And despite this year’s awards season also rewarding the likes of supporting actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o and Julia Roberts for their stellar performances, the study – which used analysis of over 2,300 characters in last year’s top grossing films – found that of 2013’s top movies, just 29% of major characters were female and 13% of films featured an equal number of male and female characters with only 30% of speaking parts going to women.
“Overall, we have seen little movement in the numbers of female protagonists and females as speaking characters over the last decade,” commented Lauzen. “Moreover, female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind.”