Gender Representation in Feature Films


Introduction to Gender Representation in Films

Out of all the movies you have watched in you life, have you ever noticed a majority of the leading roles were male? Although representation of female characters in movies is improving, there are 2.24 male characters for every one female character. Not only do women have fewer leading roles, but there are fewer female movie directors/producers and the difference in salary compared to men is way less depending on their age. On top of that, women’s acting careers in the movie industry depend on whether or not they maintain the “Hollywood” look by staying skinny and portraying a youthful appearance.


Men in Leading Movie Roles 

In Hollywood it is very clear that men get a lot more leading roles than women. Overall, men have a lot more opportunities in the film industry than women do. Even when men get older there are still so many opportunities for them, in not only leading roles, but for any role. The film industry is very much dominated by men, but mostly white men.

Men50 shades of grey account for 88% of the protagonist in the top 100 highest grossing domestic films of 2014, while women only account for 12% of the protagonist in the top 100 highest grossing domestic films in 2014. Such films include; American Sniper, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The LEGO Movie, 22 Jump Street and many more other wavengersell known films.  Men also account for 71% of major characters and 70% of all speaking characters , the percentages are from a study done in 2013. As you can see, men are dominating the film industry. Leading men roles are also very dominated by white men over any other race.  Men over 40 also account for 53% of characters. There are more older men in films than there are younger men in films. The older a man gets in the film industry the more valuable they become. Men also are typically always older than women on TV and in films. Most women on TV and in films are under 40. Another fact is that while men continue to age in movies and TV their love interest typically stay the same age. For example Denzel Washington is about 60, while his love interest on TV and movies continue to stay 35 years and younger. That also goes for a lot of actors as well.


Actor vs. Actress Income in Hollywood

Women earn about 90% of what men are paid until they hit 34. After that median, earnings for women are typically 75-80% of what men are paid. The median age for male actors is 51 and their compensation steadily increases over time.

In year 2013, the highest earning male actors earned between $32 million-$75 million while the 10 highest earning female actors earned between $11 million-$33 million. This trend is because we our society places priority on appearances. Women’s faces are valued for looking young, while men’s well-worn faces are thought to convey maturity, character and experience.

Judge and co-researchers, Irene De Pater and Brent Scott, examined earnings records for 265 actors and actresses between 1968 and 2008. They found that the wage gap could partly be caused by the fact that there are fewer older actresses than actors in the field as there are fewer film roles available for women over 45. The average age of female winners at this year’s Golden Globes was 42, while the average age of males was 52. Since the roles for older female actors are limited, it creates more pressure on female stars to maintain a youthful appearance. Many women in Hollywood consider this a serious issue and are taking a stance by speaking out to the movie industries demanding equal pay, and to not only be valued for their looks.

Actor & Actress Income Infographic link :Actor & Actress Income Infograph

Hollywood’s Lack of Female Directors

For many years women have perfected roles in front of the camera, but not many have actually been behind it. One aspect of Hollywood that remains prevalent today, is that not many women have the opportunity to be the ones behind the camera. When women do actually have the opportunity to direct, it seems that the movies themselves do not receive the respect some of them may deserve. Three major recent films such as “The Hunger Games”, “Gravity”, and “The Heat” have had three extremely powerful women as their protagonists, but none of those top grossing films were directed by a women.Image result for the heat

The only recent, top grossing film that was directed by a women, was 2013’s “Frozen”. Although this film was directed by a women, there also was a male figure involved with the directing process. Possibly because most of Hollywood’s successful movies have been directed by men throughout the years, Hollywood
feels that women are not capable of
creating such a film. In 2011 only five percent of the top grossing 250 films were directed by women. The following year, only Image result for frozen directornine percent, and in 2013, only two of the top grossing 100 films were directed by women. Hollywood may not be so-called “sexist” towards the idea of more women directing, but perhaps because most of Hollywood’s movies, especially the most successful have been directed by men, it has become a norm, and an expected outcome for these films. Hopefully with the realization of the lack in women directing, Hollywood will begin to make changes and start to recognize women directors and the talents they possess.

Gender Norms & Films

In today’s film industry not just anyone can get casted for a movie. Nowadays, roles in movies are given based on a person’sgravity-behind-the-scenes-sandra-bullock-george-clooney-alfonso-cuaron gender. Men are typically given the roles associated with dominance while women play the damsel in distress and subordinate. If men were to play roles associated with taking care of babies or cooking, it’d be seen as unusual. If a woman were casted to play the lead in a war movie, she would be seen as going against the gender norm. Today we see more and more movies with men and dominance and rarely any of women and power. This trend is because gender roles in the film industry today are very limited. It is almost impossible for a woman to be casted the leading role in a movie. When the word “men” comes to mind, most think of dominance and being strong, while women are seen to be the opposite; they are viewed as “weak” or “fragile”.

However, there are some movies where the roles for genders are switched. For example, “Gravity” and “The Hunger Games” are the-hunger-games-catching-fire-poster-final-405x600two of the few movies where women are given the lead role and are accepted by society even though they go against gender norms. Movies typically depict men as being the leader and macho one; however, “The Hunger Games” is a prime example of challenging the gender norms. The movie consists of two teens from different districts who are to fight to their death while being televised. In the end, the girl survived the hunger games, and the boy too. This movie goes against the idea of women being associated with fighting, but later became a big hit throughout the world. It seems that it is easier for women to get away with liking manly stuff, while men have it harder. For example, a man seen watching “The Notebook” is frowned upon, as is a man wearing pink or a dress. Both these examples show that society tends to be narrow-minded when it comes to gender norms. For this reason, it is harder for women to be casted lead roles because men are usually picked and seen more fit for the role than women.


Men account for 88% of the protagonist in the top 100 highest grossing domestic films of 2014. While women only account for 12% of the protagonist in the top 100 highest grossing domestic films in 2014. Men also account for 71% of major characters and 70% of all speaking characters, the percentages are from a study done in 2013. Men who are  over 40 also account for 53% of characters in films.


The following video is about how the movie media has limited the roles for both men and women.

Here is an example of the stereotypical gender roles being switched in major featured films.

External Links

Variety: Men in Leading Roles

Actor & Actress Income

Actor & Actress Income: Gender Bias


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