Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”; Lucasfilm, 2016(LOS ANGELES) — Amid complaints from actresses like Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence over pay inequality between them and their male co-stars, there’s now a bright spot for women in Hollywood — we’re seeing more women as protagonists in big-screen productions.
Recent hit films films like Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Moana, Hidden Figures, Bad Moms, and The Girl on the Train are proving that female characters can also equal big box office bucks.
Variety cites a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University that finds women accounted for 29 percent of protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing films of 2016 — a seven-percent rise from 2015 and what Variety calls a “recent historical high.”
Females also hit historical highs in ensemble casts, making up 37 percent of major characters in the most popular films — a three-percentage point jump from the previous year, according to the study. Female protagonists were most likely to appear in comedies, dramas, horror films, animated features and science fiction films. They were least likely to show up in action films.
Even so, the percentage of female characters in speaking roles remained virtually the same, and males still dominate the big screen by a two-to-one margin. The trend also didn’t help female filmmakers, who comprised just seven percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016. That’s actually down slightly from the levels achieved in 2015 and in 1998.
Likewise, the numbers didn’t translate into more racial diversity, with roles for black and Asian female characters up just slightly, and Latina character dipping in 2016.
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