More Women Were Protagonists in 2016 Movies




Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Lucasfilm Ltd, via Associated Press

Is Hollywood listening? A new report assessing how women fared in 2016 movies found a 7 percent increase in the number of female protagonists from the previous year. However, other measures, including the overall number of speaking roles, suggested more mixed results.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that 29 percent of protagonists in the top 100 box-office hits of 2016 were women, up from 22 percent in 2015. These included characters like Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the top-grossing film of the year. Similarly, the number of female major characters also rose, from 34 percent to 37 percent. The center described those new figures as “recent historical highs.”

But the overall number of speaking roles — major and minor characters — declined by a percentage point. And when it came to minority female characters onscreen, the results were much more uneven. The percentage of Asian female characters doubled (to 6 percent, from 3 percent in 2015), and the number of black women rose slightly (to 14 percent, from 13 percent in 2015). But the number of Latina characters ticked down, to 3 percent from 4 percent the year before.

As previous studies have found, when women served as directors or writers, women were the protagonists 57 percent of the time. That figure dropped to 18 percent when men ran the show.

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