POSTED March 11 2014

On the screen male protagonists outnumber female five to one

imagesOuch. Martha Lauzen, the San Diego State University professor and indefatigable fount of movie statistics, has crunched the numbers for 2013 and found that among the top 100 box-office films, the ratio of female to female protagonists to male is 85:15. Now, 5.5 guys for every gal is a good statistic at a bar or a dance. But not onscreen where it creates the effect that it’s a man’s world and looks roughly like this image of Julia Roberts surrounded by her Oceans 11 co-stars.

Females comprised 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters.

Here’s the link to the study, which as Lauzen says, “is particularly relevant in light of what Cate Blanchett said at the Oscars.” Clutching her best actress statuette, Blanchett chastised chastised “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 wanna see them, and, in fact, they make money.”

Two of the biggest moneymakers in 2013 were the fire’n’ice duo Catching Fire and Frozen.

I’m reaching for an aspirin. Your thoughts about making these statistics more equal?





  1. I’m not sure that there’s anything “to do” except to encourage our daughters to earnestly pursue their creativity and “outperform” the competition by creating compelling work. Do you have statistics for other years or decades showing trends? What would you do?

    • Carrie Rickey says:

      Curtis, great question:

      In the early 1970s when the studios were worried that they had little to no African-Smerican representation on screen, they created internship programs an opportunities for black filmmakers and screenwriters. I don’t remember if there were quotas, bu there were opportunities.

  2. Thank you for your reply. I would also be interested in knowing how these #s broke down among the major distributors and international production entities over time. That kind of information could certainly be used effectively in general and targeted lobbying efforts. I would certainly hope that there would not be quotas. Apart from their other negative characteristics, which are legion, quotas are inimical to art.

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