Study Finds Women Represent a Third of Onscreen Population in Film
Women may represent half of the global population in real life, but fictional film worlds get by with just a third.
The latest It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World report from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has found that men outnumbered women onscreen by a factor of 2 to 1 in 2021. This proportion held steady across the shares of lone protagonists (31 percent), major characters (35 percent) and all speaking characters (34 percent), with less than 3 points of deviation from the year before.
“Despite the major disruptions in the film business over the last couple of years, onscreen gender ratios have remained relatively stable,” Martha Lauzen, the Center’s executive director, said in a statement.
Seven percent of the films sampled — the 100 highest-grossing movies in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo — featured more female than male characters, and 8 percent achieved gender parity. The remaining 85 percent of movies released last year were majority male.
More than half (57.6 percent) of 2021’s major female characters were white, down from nearly three-quarters (74.4 percent) the year before. Black women represented 16.4 percent of major female characters (up from 13.2 percent in 2020), but the increase in BIPOC representation was mainly boosted by Latinas (12.8 percent) and Asian women (10 percent), who each had a 5.7 percent share of the pie in 2020. (There were no major MENA female characters in film last year, and 0.4 percent of major female characters were Native American.)
The study notes that if Latino- and Asian-centered movies like Encanto, In the Heights, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Minari are excluded from the analysis, the share of Latinas and Asian women as major characters falls to their 2020 levels (5.3 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively).