Women Make Strong Gains in Depictions on the Big Screen


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Amy Schumer in “Trainwreck.”Credit Universal Pictures

A study of female characters in the top 100 studio films last year found a significant rise in the number of women featured as protagonists. But the increase was largely limited to white women on screen, according to the analysis, by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

Defining protagonist as the “character from whose perspective the story is told,” the center reported on Tuesday that 22 percent of such characters in the 100 top-grossing domestic films in 2015 were women, a rise of 10 percentage points over 2014. With the caveat that 2014 was an especially bad year for depictions of women in studio films, the center described the increase last year — when films like “Trainwreck” and the concluding installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise were released — as a “recent historical high.”

Still, not all women benefited equally. Black women made slight gains in having movies told from their points of view, while the number of Latina protagonists was unchanged and fewer Asian women were able to secure those crucial roles. But over all, the vast majority of female characters were white.

And as other studies have noted, when a woman is behind the camera, the number of female protagonists goes up dramatically. The center found that in films with a female director or writer, 50 percent of the protagonists were women. In films with men occupying those roles behind the camera, only 13 percent of the protagonists were women.



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