The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has released its latest study, “examining gender and race/ethnicity on screen and behind the camera across the 100 top‐grossing fictional films” — and the report found a giant, heartwarming uptick in the number of well-written, stereotype-smashing speaking roles for women, people of color, and LGBT characters! Sorry, just thought I’d see what it’d feel like write that summary, for once. No, the results were as depressingly predictable as ever.
According to the Annenberg study, their crunching of the 700 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014 turned up a mere 30.2% of women among the 30,835 speaking characters. And lest you lull yourself into comfort by figuring, Hey, well, that goes back several years, and things are getting better, the study found only 21 of the top 100 films of 2014 featured a female lead or co-lead — a 7% decrease from the previous year, and the lowest percentage (28.1%) of the seven years tallied. More fun facts: “In 2014, no female actors over 45 years of age performed a lead or co lead role. Only three of the female actors in lead or co lead roles were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds. No female leads or co leads were Lesbian or Bisexual characters.” Oh, plus: “In 2014, females of all ages were more likely than males to be shown in sexy attire (27.9% of females vs. 8% of males), with some nudity (26.4% of females vs. 9.1% of males) and referenced as physically attractive (12.6% of females vs. 3.1% of males).”
In the 2014 sampling, 73.1% of speaking characters where white; “this represents no change in the portrayal of apparent race/ethnicity from 2007-2014.” Seventeen of the top 100 films of 2014 didn’t include a single black or African-American speaking character, and 40 did not include an Asian speaking character.
And across the 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top films of 2014, only 19 were lesbian, gay or bisexual; none were transgender. Of those characters, 84.2% were white.
Not grim enough for you? Here’s this: Across those top 100 films of 2014, women only accounted for 1.9% of directors, 11.2% of writers, and 18.9% of producers. Exactly two women directors appear among the top 100 for 2014; when you widen out to the top 700 over seven years, you get a whopping 28 women, 45 black directors (three of them women), and 19 Asian directors (one co-director a woman).
There’s plenty to say here, but instead, we’ll leave the analysis in the hands of the sole African-American woman director on last year’s list: