We have covered some great news recently. Ava DuVernay is currently being courted for two major films by two different studios, Dee Rees was the only female director to win a DGA Award this past weekend, and Melina Matsoukas directed a powerful Beyonce video that will have the world talking for many generations to come. Despite all of strides that we seem to be making in Hollywood, a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, shows that things are improving for women in Hollywood, but this fact does not apply to women of color.
In 2015, women accounted for 34% of the major characters and only 33% were speaking characters. These statistics show an increase from last year; however there was only a 2% increase in black female characters (11% to 13%), no increase in Latina characters, and there was actually a decrease in the amount of Asian female characters on screen (4% to 3%). Overall, only 27% of the characters played by black, Latina, or Asian actresses were considered major characters compare that to the 38% of major roles held by white actresses.
Overall, 2015 showed an increase in female protagonists in the top 110 top grossing films (22% from 12% in 2014). Men held 78% of the leading roles.
Reading statistics like this make me wonder if someone like Julie Delpy still wishes that she was a black woman working in Hollywood. Last month she publicly stated:
“It’s funny, women can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African American because people don’t bash them afterwards…It’s the hardest thing to be a woman. [Being a] feminists is something people hate above all. Nothing worse than being a woman in this business. I really believe that.” – Julie Delpy
Delpy quickly retracted her statements after a media backlash; however, I’m certain that she does not recognize her privilege. Her comments clearly imply that white women are the most oppressed members of the Hollywood system, and this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
It’s great to see numerical improvements, but it would be even better to see things improve at the same rate across the board to include women of color. These studies are important as it gives Hollywood a clear picture of where they are lacking. As long as on screen representation remains homogeneous, these unfortunate statistical stories will continue to repeat themselves year after year.
“Everybody’s talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Talk to Gabrielle Union. If you want to hear stories, talk to Nia Long. Talk to Kerry Washington. They would love to get to Jennifer Lawrence’s place, or just be treated with the same amount of respect.” – Chris Rock
Be sure to check out the entire report here: It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in Top 100 Films of 2015