Forget the popcorn: More likely to see alien woman than Asian female on the big screen

DIDOBELLEweb_2925601bWhen was the last time you saw an inspirational female character on the big screen? The last trip to the cinema we made was for early abolitionist ‘Belle’ Dido Lindsay, screen written, scored and directed by a team of women. However, we’ll despair if she becomes our sole evidence of powerful cinema female characters. Of those 100 top-grossing movies of 2013, women made up just 15% of main characters and at least one of those was animated! We’re not alone in noticing the paucity of talent.

Martha Lauzen, ED of the Centre for Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found in her study of the top grossing movies of 2013 movies: 54% of all female characters are in their 20s and 30s. Nearly 3/4 (73%) were white and only 60% were employed, compared to 78% of male characters. No doubt, this lack of employment leaves plenty of time for ‘her guy’ – the male lead. The movies were devoid of positive role models for the average over 40s woman, not to mention women of ethnic origin.

Dismally,”moviegoers were as likely to see an other-worldly female as they were to see an Asian female character” noted Lauzen. If women are half the population and we assume they buy half of all tickets and downloads, surely it’s just good business to tell their story on-screen. Yet this truism seems to remain lost on male directors, investors and producers.

Stacy Smith, director of Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California, has studied box office movies releases since 2007. Smith reported an increase in success of a movie when there was a female lead, notably “The Hunger Games” franchise, “Twilight” saga, and “Frozen”. The latter is the first movie directed by a woman to gross more than $1 billion. It’s a well known fact we write about our experiences: 85% of movie screenwriters are male, subsequently men create aspirational male lead characters. Only when we have more female screenwriters, directors and producers being funded by the big studios will we see women’s real lives being represented.

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