Study: On-Screen Gender Inequality Persists in Hollywood

5:54 AM PST 11/22/2011 by Georg Szalai
© Paramount Pictures

Analyzing the top 100 films of 2009, USC's Annenberg School found that only 32.8 percent of speaking characters were female and a small minority of the films had female directors, even though women bought a majority of movie tickets that year.

NEW YORK - A survey of the top 100 grossing movies of 2009 showed that male speaking roles continued to clearly outweigh female roles and that females showed more skin on-screen, the LA Times reported.

Providing latest evidence that gender inequality persists in Hollywood, the study by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism found that only 32.8 percent of the 4,342 speaking characters in those movies were female, a percentage unchanged compared with the top-grossing movies of 2008, it said.

In films directed by women, 47.7 percent of on-screen characters were female, while male directors featured fewer than a third of female characters, according to the Annenberg study.

When it came to behind-the-camera jobs though, only 3.6 percent of the directors and 13.5 percent of the writers of the analyzed movies were female, according to the survey.

"We see remarkably stable trends," USC Annenberg associate professor Stacy Smith told the LA Times. "This reveals an industry formula for gender that may be outside of people's conscious awareness."

The inequality persisted even though women bought more than 50 percent of movie tickets sold in the U.S., in 2009, the report said citing MPAA data.

Among the movies analyzed in the Annenberg study were Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

When it comes to on-screen clothing, the Annenberg study found that women continued to be much more likely than men to wear sexy outfits. For example, instances of actresses shown in swimwear and unbuttoned shirts (25.8 percent, compared with 4.7 percent for men) or showing exposed skin (23 percent versus 7.4 percent) showed the imbalance, the Times highlighted. Also, female characters were more often described by another character as attractive in the top 2009 films - 10.9 percent versus 2.5 percent.

Revealing clothing and partial nudity was just as prevalent among 13- to 20-year-old female characters as among women aged 21 to 29, the study shows, highlighting that women are sexualized on-screen at young ages, Smith said.


Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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