While the tides are changing in Hollywood – with women demanding to be taken seriously for the atrocities they have been forced to deal with for decades while simultaneously proving to be a major box office draw (we see you, Wonder Woman) – the number of female leads in movies actually went down in 2017.
Gal Gadot had an incredibly successful 2017. Wonder Woman was a box office smash, boosting the beloved role model to the top spot as Hollywood’s highest-paid actress. Director Patty Jenkins managed to translate Wonder Woman‘s success into her own pay raise. Girls Trip dominated the box office, while Lady Bird made a splash on the award season circuit. And, of course, there was the ultimate homage paid when Time Magazine decided to give “The Silence Breakers” the honorable title of Person of the Year. But despite all this apparent progress, 2017 was just another example of “One step forward, two steps back”, as women found themselves with even fewer roles available to them.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University published a study detailing the diminishing presence of female leads in Hollywood films in 2017. The report, via The Guardian, reveals the film industry’s gender gap was not only in full swing in 2017 but was even growing. Of the 100 top-grossing films of last year, the study found only 24 percent featured female protagonists, with a steep drop-off for women over the age of 40. The overall statistic is down 5 percent from 29 percent in 2016. Men over 40 were still able to procure lead roles at a respectable rate of 46 percent, while women of the same age made up only 29 percent of total roles.
Of the overall 24 percent statistic, 65 percent were independent films. Mainstream Hollywood still seems to be skittish about giving a woman the lead role in a film, despite the top three movies of 2017 (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman) all being female-led. There could be no better argument for the general public’s desire for well-written female characters.
Though it may seem as if women lost the overall war, many little battles were won in 2017. The number of female speaking characters went up 2 percent with a total of 34 percent. Minorities were (slightly) better represented as well. Asian women grew in presence by 1 percent, Black women saw an increase of 2 percent, and Latina roles jumped up 4 percent. The undeniable success of films like Girls Trip should be a testament to the sizeable market seeking representation of minorities in major film releases.
There are many highly anticipated, female-led releases in store for 2018. A Wrinkle in Time, Tomb Raider, Red Sparrow, and Halloween 2018 to name a few. And, of course, a follow-up to Wonder Woman and a long-awaited Black Widow film are in the works. If film trends continue, these movies are likely to dominate once again. With the box office numbers to back them up, women are finally able to prove their worth to Hollywood. Now it’s up to the film industry to affect longterm change.
Source: The Guardian
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