ByElise Jost, writer at
"It's a UNIX system! I know this!" Twitter @elisejost
Elise Jost

There's been too much outrage at the prospect of female-led movies this year. Not that it's a new thing to whine about the fact that after women got the right to vote, they might get similar amounts of screen time to their male counterparts, but 2016 has been a whirl of backlashes and ugly online rants.

Yet the horizon seemed bright enough, with the release of a female-led Star Wars movie in the form of and another blockbuster coming soon with the 2017 release of — though that movie's already long overdue considering the character's popular 75-year comic book run.

I've got bad news both for deniers that the gender gap in Hollywood exists and for hopeful moviegoers who allowed themselves to believe things had gotten better for female characters in movies. Data scientist Amber Thomas has compiled an analysis of the dialogue spoken by women in the 10 highest grossing movies of 2016, and the results aren't pretty.

Not A Single Movie In 2016's Top 10 Had A Cast That Was Half Female

Margot Robbie in 'Suicide Squad' [Credit: DC/Warner Bros.]
Margot Robbie in 'Suicide Squad' [Credit: DC/Warner Bros.]

You can check out Thomas's findings in detail here, including the process she used to get her results, and a beautiful interactive chart here. She started with this list of the highest grossing movies of 2016:

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Finding Dory
  • Zootopia
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Deadpool
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Suicide Squad

After counting the words in the dialogue that were spoken by female characters, she was able to establish the following: First, that none of these movies had a cast that's at least 50% female. The most equally divided movie is Finding Dory, with 43% of female speaking characters. If you thought that'd be a given considering the main character is a lady, please note that neither Zootopia nor Rogue One made the cut.

See also:

Actually, 9% of the speaking characters in Rogue One were female. Nine. Percent.

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' [Credit: Disney]
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' [Credit: Disney]

Even The Existing Female Characters Can't Get Half Of The Dialogue

You could argue that the number of characters wouldn't be such a big deal if the characters that were in the movie got equally divided time in terms of dialogue. But the only movie of the batch that clocks in at least 50% of female dialogue is Finding Dory, and that's because Dory alone provided 76% of these lines.

Male vs female characters and dialogue in 2016's top 10 movies [Credit: Amber Thomas via Medium]
Male vs female characters and dialogue in 2016's top 10 movies [Credit: Amber Thomas via Medium]

The notoriously male-dominated superhero movies, namely Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and DC's Suicide Squad, respectively allotted 16% and 32% of their dialogue to female characters. If you're the type to see the glass half full, you could say that Suicide Squad managed to make twice Civil War's results — but for a movie whose marketing heavily relied on Margot Robbie's and featured Viola Davis as the badass Amanda Waller, you'd expect much more than a third of the dialogue to go to women. Even the villain was female, for crying out loud!

To all the haters whose main argument was that Hollywood should create new characters instead of gender-swapping existing ones, now you know that even Rogue One or Zootopia couldn't achieve a male-female balance, let alone a truly female-led movie.

'Zootopia' [Credit: Disney]
'Zootopia' [Credit: Disney]

So what now? Can we hope that next year, exciting projects such as Wonder Woman and Ocean's Eight and Ghost in the Shell can rectify the balance? Can we hope that angry online trolls start realizing that without a woman, they wouldn't even be alive to troll?

As Reese Witherspoon put it in an interview about her new show, HBO's Big Little Lies:

"I'm passionate because things have to change. We have to see women as they really are, and not just in movies with a tiny budget. […] We need to see these things because we as human beings learn from art, and what can we do if we never see that reflected?"

Which movies are you looking forward to next year?

(Source: Amber Thomas via Medium)


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