2016 was when women characters dominated Hollywood. Wonder Woman, Jyn Erso, Harley Quinn emerged as iconoclastic heroines. Or so we believed.
Amber Thomas, a data scientist and “pro question asker” crunched some serious numbers over the dialogue spoken in ten of the highest grossing Hollywood movies of 2016. These are the movies:
1. Captain America: Civil War
2. Finding Dory
4. The Jungle Book
5. The Secret Life of Pets
6. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
10. Suicide Squad
While many of these films were lauded for having some strong female leads, the analysis of data yielded some astonishing results.
None of these films has a 50% female speaking cast.
Rogue One, for its celebrated portrayal of a female lead, Jyn Erso, had only 9% speaking female characters. Of these 10 characters, one was a computer voice and another was CGI Princess Leia.
Only 1 movie out of 10 had more than half the lines mouthed by a female character.
And that was Finding Dory. Because it was about Dory.
While Suicide Squad mainly relied on Harley Quinn for its promotion, the whimsical anti-heroine spoke only 602 words.
Compare that to Deadshot (Will Smith) who got 1432.
Thomas used some striking graphics to represent her findings:
Her conclusions beg the question - why does the cinematic universe lag behind in accurately representing 51% of all human (and animal) population of the planet?
It is imperative that we take note of this study because it brings into relief- and in verifiable numbers- the biases that exist everywhere, even in the process of filmmaking. It brings back memories of every story writing attempt as a child, where many of us, unconsciously, created a male protagonist because all the good books had those. Or worse, a token female protagonist who had stereotypically masculine traits (rationality over emotion, intelligence over empathy) because being ‘feminine’ is somehow unrelatable, subpar.
Many of us are also guilty of attributing greater value to the male perspective and thought process. The misrepresentation is further normalised by the body of work we see around us, and are influenced deeply by. And this is as much a problem in 2017 as it was back then.
Amber Thomas’ entire study can be read here.