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New study shows that women don’t get to talk much in big Hollywood movies

Jojo Moyes compiled stats from Hollywood, published by The Pudding, that show women haven’t really had much to say in America’s most prominent films.

Winners of the Best Picture films have garnered critical responses throughout Twitter by users that are shocked with the raw data.

The chart, which dates back to 1991’s Dancing With Wolves, shows colored bar graph that analyzes the number of words spoken between men and women in movies, with the exception of 2003 and 2012’s Chicago and The Artist.

In 1994, The Schindler’s List and 2010’s The Hurt Locker, there appears to be no bar at all.


It seems this dynamic starts younger than anticipated.

The Pudding also complied stats from 30 different Disney and Pixar films, and found that in all of them, male characters primarily took the lead.

“In January 2016, researchers reported that men speak more often than women in Disney’s princess films. We validated this claim and doubled the sample size to 30 Disney films, including Pixar. The results: 22 of 30 Disney films have a male majority of dialogue.”

They also go on to point out that even a film such as Mulan, where the plot is literally to bring down the patriarchy, has her dragon sidekick and protector, Mushu, speak more than her by 50%.

They also analyzed the age data of the cast members to see if there was bias towards older women in Hollywood. What they found was that women between the ages of 42 and 65 spoke 12% less than women of the proceeding 32 to 41 age group. For male cast members, peak age for character dialogue was ages 32 to 41.

“In 22% of our films, actresses had the most amount of dialogue (i.e., they were the lead). Women are more likely to be in the second place for most amount of dialogue, which occurs in 34% of films. The most abysmal stat is when women occupy at least 2 of the top 3 roles in a film, which occurs in 18% of our films. That same scenario for men occurs in about 82% of films.”

But before looking at the films from this angle, The Pudding put Hollywood films to the Bechdel Test to see if films in Hollywood have two things:

1. It has at least two women in the film
2. These women talk to each other about something besides a man

40% of films failed. When an all-male writing cast was involved, 50% of films failed. When a woman was part of the team, that number was reduced by 1/3. And finally, when an all-women writing crew behind the scenes, the films seemed to pass the test requirements.

“Whether or not there’s unconscious bias against women, things aren’t changing. Films made in 1995, on average, failed the Bechdel Test 37% of the time. Today? 38%. Films made in 1995 had about 18% women in director, producer, and writing roles. Today? 17%.”

So we have some things to work on. After last year’s tipping point and the #MeToo movement, it’s not altogether shocking that there’s a divide between female and male leads in movies, just now that it’s put forward with raw data we can easier digest what’s going on.

But this extends well beyond films, Disney or Oscar-Nominated. It starts with how we perceive women, how we view women and how we treat women in our everyday lives. It starts with acceptance of the  Gender Gap, movements #MeToo and #TimesUP. It starts with us.

Now that we know, how will we fix it?