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Study: Female characters ‘dramatically under-represented’ in top 2011 films

By Lee Margulies,

Women were “dramatically ­under-represented” in the United States’ 100 top-grossing films last year, accounting for 33 percent of all characters at a time when women made up nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population, according to a study released last week.

The 33 percent figure represented an increase over the findings of a similar study in 2002, when women comprised 28 percent of the movie characters, said the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

But while there were more female characters overall, fewer of them were “clearly identifiable protagonists,” the study found — 11 percent in 2011 versus 16 percent in 2002. “Thus, while there are more female characters onscreen today, fewer stories are told from a female character’s perspective,” according to Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.

Her title for the report: “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World.”

The report mirrored a study of women’s behind-the-scenes participation that the center released in January, which found that women made up 18 percent of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing movies last year. That was only one percentage point higher than when the center began studying employment figures in 1998.

Lauzen’s latest report said that, on average, female characters in last year’s films were younger than the male characters, less likely to be portrayed as leaders and more likely to be identified by their marital status. It said 73 percent of the female characters were Caucasian, 8 percent African American, 5 percent Latina and 5 percent Asian (with the rest in smaller categories, including aliens and animals).

— Los Angeles Times

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