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Survey shows just 7% of movies in 2021 featured more women than men

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While women have made great strides in the movie industry in the past few years, the results of a new study shows there’s more work that needs to be done when it comes to equality. 

The annual report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University shows just 7% of the movies released in 2021 featured more women than men. The report has kept tabs of female representation in the top 100 domestic grossing films since 2002.

The study, titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” and written by the center’s executive director Dr. Martha Lauzen, shows that of the films released in 2021, 85% featured more men than women, and male characters outnumbered female by almost two to one. 

Just 31% of 2021’s box office offerings featured sole female protagonists, the study notes — and major female characters dropped from 38% in 2020 to 35% in 2021. Just 8% of the films released in 2021 featured an equal number of male and female characters, according to the report. 

Some bright spots: movies centering on sole female characters bumped up to 31% in 2021, up from 29% in 2020, and the percentage of the top-grossing films in the U.S. that featured female protagonists increased from 29% in 2020 to 31% in 2022. 

However, that news is tempered by the fact that only 34% of all speaking characters in film were female in 2021, down from 36% in 2019. What’s more, gender stereotypes still persisted onscreen in 2021: “Female characters were younger and more likely to have a known marital status than males. Male characters were more likely than females to have an identifiable occupation,” Lauzen also noted. 

“In good times and pandemic times, male characters rule in film,” she concludes.

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