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Study Finds Movies Still Whiter and Maler Than Reality

By Emily Cutler | Industry | February 10, 2015 |

By Emily Cutler | Industry | February 10, 2015 |

Remember when Russell Crowe said that there are plenty of roles for older actresses in movies? And we all called him a jackass for it? Maybe we were a little too hard on him. Because as it turns out, regardless of a woman’s age, there’s a good chance there aren’t any roles for her.

This San Diego State University study surveyed 2013’s 100 highest grossing films and recorded the number and types of roles for women. And yes, it’s probably worse than you think. For instance:

Females comprised 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters.

30% of all speaking characters. Makes sense.

And even with those abysmal numbers, the roles do in fact skew younger than men’s.

•Female characters remain younger than their male counterparts. The majority of female characters were in their 20s (26%) and 30s (28%). The majority of male characters were in their 30s (27%) and 40s (31%).

So sorry, Mr. Crowe, but your scientific evidence of two different women over 40 still getting substantial roles doesn’t seem to be holding up. And did you notice that those two women are both white?

•73% of all female characters were Caucasian, followed by African American (14%), Latina (5%), Asian(3%), other worldly (3%), and other (2%). Moviegoers were as likely to see an other-worldly female as they were to see an Asian female character.

HOLY FUCK. Alien women are getting more roles than Asian women. I’m into sci-fi/ super-hero movies as much as anyone, but maybe we can refocus our attention for a little bit, huh?

And before anyone starts arguing that it’s the quality of roles vs the quantity of roles, no, it’s not that either. The few roles for women are still usually of the wife/ girlfriend variety:

•Female characters were more likely than male characters to have an identifiable marital status. 46% of female characters but 58% of male characters had an unknown marital status.

•A higher proportion of male than female characters had an identifiable occupational status. 78% of male characters but only 60% of female characters had an identifiable job/occupation.


So just remember, ladies, in order to have a successful acting career, you just have to remain young, white and sexually available forever. But then again, we are getting our own Ghostbusters, so we can just call it even, right?

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