Female protagonists on the decline - despite Wonder Women and Star Wars

Hollywood’s glass ceiling ‘remains firmly in place’ – but there was good news for black, Asian, and Latina women


The number of female protagonists in top-grossing Hollywood films fell last year, according to a new study.

Despite the box office success of women-fronted blockbusters like Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast, women accounted for just 24% of protagonists in 2017.

This represents a 5% drop from the previous year, the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found.

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The overall number of female characters in the year’s top films remained the same as last year, at 37%.

The figures show that Hollywood’s glass ceiling remains “firmly in place,” says Variety, with moviegoers now more than twice as likely to see male characters on the big screen than female ones.

Researchers analysed 2,361 characters from the 100 highest grossing domestic films in their annual investigation into the gender makeup of Hollywood movies, released ahead of the Academy Awards.

“In an awards season when talk about women and gender has been top of mind, we need to separate hyperbole from reality,” said Martha Lauzen, the centre’s executive director.

The numbers “do not yet reflect claims of a tectonic or massive shift in the film industry,” she added.

However, there was good news in terms of diversity. The number of black female characters increased from 14% to 16%, while Latina characters more than doubled from 3% to 7%. The number of Asian female characters also rose, but only from 6% to 7%.

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