Keeping ’em Young and Powerless

Old Ladies10 February 2015: In a study titled It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014 Dr Martha Lauzen from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University that found that a mere 12 % of the highest grossing films of 2014 had female protagonists. Secondary female characters and females with speaking roles were also underrepresented. Lauzen states, “As we grow older, we gain personal as well as professional power.”

Lauzen also suggests the consequence of having few female authority figures portrayed onscreen (and as I suggest in fiction, especially romance fiction) means that, “When we keep them young, we keep them relatively powerless.” Further to this, Lauzen notes that “The chronic underrepresentation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry…It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry’s relevance in today’s marketplace.”

While the study shows the majority of film roles lack racial and ethnic diversity (the majority of roles are white), the study also indicates that ageism is still hard at work onscreen.

  • Female characters remain younger than their male counterparts. The majority of female characters were in their 20s (23%) and 30s (30%). The majority of male characters were in their 30s (27%) and 40s (28%).
  • Males 40 and over accounted for 53% of all male characters. Females 40 and over comprised 30% of all female characters.
  • Whereas the percentage of female characters declined dramatically from their 30s to their 40s (30% to 17%), the percentage of male characters increased slightly, from 27% in their 30s to 28% in their 40s.
  • The percentage of male characters in their 50s (18%) is twice that of female characters in their 50s (9%). 

I’m sure none of this surprised the female movie-going population. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise women who read fiction, write fiction, are awarded prizes for writing…

 

Lauzen. M. (2015). It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014. Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Retrieved from http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/2014_Its_a_Mans_World_Report.pdf .

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