USC Study On Film And Gender Tells Us What We Already Know

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Well, surprise, surprise. It looks like women in Hollywood are still screwed, at least according to a recent University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism study. Researchers surveyed all films released in 2009, and found that filmmakers still favor men over women — only around a third of all speaking characters were female. Not only that — women on screen were more likely to be scantily clad — three times more likely — than their male counterparts.

And here’s where it gets really interesting. The statistics shift slightly when you factor in the gender of the people behind the camera. In 2009, a scant 3.6 percent of the highest grossing films were directed by women, and 13.5 percent were written by women. But when women were behind the camera, films included a significantly higher percentage of female characters (47.7), while male-directed films featured less than a third of women with speaking roles. 

“Females represent half of the population and half of moviegoing audiences, but they don’t hit a third of the characters,” USC Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith said. “Male consumers aren’t the only ones going to the movies, but our cultural storytellers today are male. The problem is really thinking about the perpetuation of the status quo.”

All this is to say that there need to be more women behind the camera if we want to see more women on screen — and in stronger, more relevant roles. So what can we do? Support female filmmakers and screenwriters with our dollars — not blindly, of course. But recognize that we can effect change in the media by making better media choices. [LA Times]

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