Late last week, Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels released a study on Polygraph breaking down the dialogue of over 2000 major screenplays by the gender and age of the actors. If you’ve followed any of the other news about representation in film for the last few years, the results should come as no surprise: it’s men all the way down, and older women are especially absent.
Polygraph bills the study as the largest demographic breakdown of film ever undertaken, and its scope certainly helps make the point. Among the 2000 screenplays dissected, over 75% give a strong majority of their dialogue to men. Only eight screeplays feature all-women speaking roles – a number even that’s more troubling in comparison to the 304 scripts with only men. Age breakdowns are similarly frustrating, with roles increasing for men as they age and decreasing for women.
To make the point, the authors included a separate list of statistics just for Disney movies. Even in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a movie noted for its progressive gender representation, men get 72% of the dialogue.
As with other tests and measurements, this isn’t an indication of whether a movie is a good or morally acceptable. It also isn’t wholly reflective of individual movies: men have a majority of the dialogue in Kill Bill, but the movie has an exceptional cast of women. But it’s statistical confirmation that, on the whole, women (and older women) are still disproportionately out of the spotlight.