Women Have Fewer Speaking Roles But Show More Skin In Movies

It certainly seems like Hollywood wants women to be seen (preferably half-naked) and not heard, and now we have the numbers to prove it. University of Southern California researchers analysed the 100 top-grossing movies of 2008, including The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Twilight. They found a plethora of disturbing statistics on how women are portrayed on screen, such as:

  • Men had 67% of the speaking roles, while women had only 33%.
  • For every five male directors, writers, or producers, there was one woman working behind the camera.
  • Female characters are more likely to wear sexy clothing than men (26% vs. 5%)
  • Women are more likely than men to appear partially nude (24% vs. 8%)

Some of the most troubling findings reveal how teen girls are used as "eye candy" in films. Not only were female teen characters as likely to appear partially nude as adult women (30%), but teen girls are actually more likely to be shown in provocative clothing (40%) than women ages 21 to 39 (32%). Women are also less likely to be called attractive by another character as they age out of cheerleader uniforms. 29% of teen girls on screen were called pretty at some point, compared to 18% of women ages 21 to 39, and 8% of women ages 40 to 64.

Lead researcher Stacy Smith concluded:

"Women represent roughly half of the U.S. population and buy roughly half of the movie tickets, but they still represent only a third of the speaking roles in film ... Females are missing in action when it comes to speaking roles."

Basically the study supplies the numbers to back up the Bechdel Test. You aren't going to find many films in which two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man when women only have 33% of the speaking roles — and they spend a good chunk of the movie talking about how their clothes might come off.

Film Study: Men Talk And Women Show Skin [USA Today]