Number of (white) female protagonists in major movies on the rise, study finds

Ready for a little bit of good news about gender equality in Hollywood? The number of female protagonists in major films has hit a recent high — however, the vast majority of those roles are still reserved for white women. According to a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, which looked at the 110 highest-grossing films of 2015, female leads made up 22 percent — up 6 percent from 2014 –  while 34 percent of major characters were women. In total, women in speaking roles comprised 33 percent of the characters in those movies. The study’s author, Martha Lauzen, sees these “numbers moving in the right direction,” but says she’s unsure “whether or not 2015 was a bit of an anomaly or whether this is the beginning of a longer-term trend.”

While this little crack in Hollywood’s glass ceiling perhaps comes as no surprise after a year that saw box office hits like Trainwreck, 50 Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games or Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s mostly white actresses who are benefiting. The numbers of female characters of color remained largely unchanged (with only a small uptick for black female characters, from 11 percent to 13 percent). The roles these actresses landed remained largely unchanged: only 27 percent of characters portrayed by black, Latina, or Asian actresses were considered major roles, compared to 38 percent of those played by white actresses. Another unsurprising conclusion from the study: female directors are more inclined to hire female actors than their male colleagues — women had a leading role in 50 percent of films by female directors and/or writers, but made up only 13 percent of the protagonists in movies directed by men.

Read the full story at Variety.


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