Females in Film

The month of March signaled the beginning of National Women’s History Month, as well as the annual Oscar Awards ceremony, which was held on the first Sunday of March. Notably, a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women & Film at San Diego State University shows the decline of female-led films. Despite films with female protagonists, like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ dominating the box office, women have lost ground in the film industry.
Assuming that a “protagonist” are characters from whose perspective the story is told, this study categorized percentages of males and females as major characters, and then, more generally, as speaking characters. Female protagonists comprised 24% of the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2017 — a decline from 29% in 2016. In both cases, more males were major and speaking characters in films than women by a significant amount.


This study also looked at the types of films that women and men were more likely to be in, concluding that female protagonists were most likely to appear in comedies (30%) and dramas (30%), whereas male protagonists were most likely to appear in action features (38%), comedies (20%), and animated features (18%).

In terms of demographics, female characters tended to remain younger than their male counterparts:32% of female characters were in their 20s and 25% were in their 20s, while the majority of males were in their 30s (31%) and 40s (27%).


This study suggests, that although there has arguably been more media attention and top grossing films given to females and female protagonists in recent years, the film industry remains male-dominated.
Sophia Kim

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