A new study shows that the percentage of movies featuring female leads reached a new all-time high in 2019, though the amount of time women spoke on screen in 2019 fell slightly.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released the results of its 2019 poll that showed the percentage of the year’s highest-grossing movies featuring female leads jumped from 31 percent to 40 percent.
The study also showed that 43 percent of these films focused on male protagonists, while 17 percent had ensemble casts or a combination of men and women in lead roles.
For this study, a protagonist is defined as the character “from whose perspective the story is told.” Additionally, these characters are described as being “instrumental to the narrative of the story.” The study looked at more than 2,300 characters in the top 100 grossing American movies.
“There’s been a fierce debate in the industry about the reasons that movies have historically failed to tell stories about people of color, women, or members of the LGBTQ community, as well as spirited discussions about how to change things,” reads a line from the study’s excerpt. “Despite those gains, it’s worth noting that audiences are still twice as likely to see men on screen as women.”
Some of the other statistics in the study include that 37 percent of major characters were women, up 1 percent from 2018. Additionally, while the number of female protagonists rose in 2019, these characters overall spoke less. The study showed that 34 percent of all speaking characters were women, which is down 1 percent year-over-year.
The study also revealed that the percentage of black women in speaking roles dropped to 20 percent, down 1 percent from 2018, while the percentage of Latinas jumped from 4 percent to 5 percent, and 7 percent of female characters were of Asian descent (down 3 percent).
Some of 2019’s biggest movies featuring women in lead roles included Little Women, Us, Frozen 2, and Captain Marvel, among many others.
Some other statistics from the study include:
- Female characters were more likely (46 percent) than male characters (34 percent) to have a known marital status.
- 73 percent of male characters had an identifiable occupation in their movie, compared to 61 percent for women.
- Male characters were more likely to be shown at work, doing their job (59 percent) compared to women (43 percent).
- 45 percent of female leads were in studio movies, while 55 percent appeared in independent films. For comparison, 2018’s data showed that women were more than twice as likely to appear in an independent movie compared to a studio film.
Go to the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University’s website to read the full studies and get more details.