The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University’s study on women in film for 2011 is out and it showed some less than promising results. In the year’s top 100 grossing movies, only 10% had female protagonists. In ensemble casts, 31% featured “at least one prominent female character.” These numbers are a bit less than the 50% of the population women comprise in real life. You can see the overview of the study here and if youâ€™re not pdf adverse, here.
Now this is the important part:
…when the size of the budget is held constant, films with female protagonists or prominent females in an ensemble cast earn similar box office grosses (domestic, international, opening weekend) and DVD sales as films with male protagonists. Because films featuring male protagonists have larger budgets, they earn larger box office grosses. However, the differences in box office grosses are not caused by the sex of the protagonist but by the size of the budget. Films with larger budgets generate larger grosses, regardless of the sex of the protagonist.
So, if the gender of the lead or leads of a film do not, in fact, have an influence on the box office numbers, but rather the size of the budget, where do we get the idea that films with women in the lead don’t make money?
Powerful men decided that movies with women in the lead don’t make money and then invested less money in movies with women in the lead which caused said movies to make less money thus proving their original theory. Self-fulfilling prophecy much?
One hopes that the success of The Hunger Games would prove those powerful men wrong, but Angelina Jolie’s continued success in action movies proved to these same men that the only female that could lead an action movie was Angelina Jolie. These are the people who assume that no one went to see Catwoman and Elektra because a woman can’t carry an action movie. The idea that those movies just weren’t good never occurs to them. Any movie starring a man that fails, fails. Any movie starring a woman that fails is proof that no one, not even women, want to see a woman in the lead.
So, are we stuck with a future of having to watch mid-budget romantic comedies if we want to see people like ourselves in the lead? Or will Hollywood realize that once they decide to allocate similar budgets to female led properties as they do to the male ones, that people will go to said movies?
Well, let’s see what Joe Quesada told Ain’t It Cool News at Kapow! Con:
In a chat afterwards, Joe told me that he’d love to make a tentpole movie with a female lead, but that he really doesn’t think there is an actress right now who could carry it, or a character that would work either.
Huh. That’s less than promising.