New Study Looks at Gender Breakdown of Dialogue in Major Films

by Angela Bourassa

Last year we took a look at a study out of the USC Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism on inequality in 700 major movies. That study covers current breakdowns of race, gender, and sexual orientation on screen and behind the camera.

Now the good people over at Polygraph have some new data to add to the pile. Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels meticulously culled through scripts for 2,000 top films to determine how many lines were spoken by men and how many were spoken by women. Unsurprisingly, the boys get to talk a whole lot more.

What was surprising was that even in films with female leads, men still tend to speak more. Looking specifically at Disney movies, in 22 of the 30 movies they examined, men spoke more than women. And that includes a lot of princess movies. In fact, in Mulan, Mushu has 50% more lines than the title character.


What’s perhaps scarier is when Polygraph reveals just how many movies have 75% or more┬ámale speaking lines compared to films with that many female lines:


Now, the organizers of this data admit that they didn’t include any characters with less than 100 spoken words, so many movies that do have minor female roles, like Schindlers’ List, appear in the 100% male line. That said, 100 words is equivalent to three or four sentences. It isn’t exactly a high threshold.

I also find it interesting that most of the movies with solely or primarily female dialogue are horror movies (The Descent, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Martyrs.)

Take a look at the data for yourself. Play with it, explore it. Then think about your own scripts.

Do your female characters have voices?


Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.

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