According to MTV News, even with the success of Star Wars: Rogue One and the Ghostbusters remake, leading ladies still have a long way to go in Hollywood: A new study found “only” 29% of the top grossing films of last year had female protagonists. So why post this video?
We took a look at the study MTV News quoted: It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World:Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2016 by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at Sand Diego State University. This four-page report lists many facts and figures for the percentage of women in all sorts of roles in movies. However, what the report doesn’t show is any sort of comparison to real life. So yeah, in films with exclusively male directors and/or writers, females accounted for 18% of protagonists, while in films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 57% of protagonists. This is about what we would have expected, so we don’t see what the MTV News video is saying.
In fact, in this article from Variety, Number of Female Film Protagonists Hits High in 2016, the same study is quoted but in a much more favorable light for women than the MTV News video. In the Variety article, The increases in women as protagonists and major characters is highlighted as being at an historical high. They even called Dr. Lauzen and reported her quotes, such as “We have now seen over and over and over that female characters, when done well, they’re good box office.”
As for the movies of 2016, we enjoyed Felicity Jones as the protagonist in Rogue One, Amy Adams in Arrival, Hidden Figures, Bad Moms, and Moana, but thought the leading ladies in the Ghostbusters re-boot was way too forced.
How two organizations take the same data and skew it one way or the other for a story just shows how fickle reporting on a “study” such as Dr. Lauzen’s can be taken out of context.