Female characters comprised just 12 per cent of protagonists in the top 100 grossing films of 2014, the lowest figure for more than a decade, according to a new study.
Despite acclaimed performances from Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon helping to produce one of the tightest Best Actress Oscar races, male protagonists still far outnumber their female counterparts on screen.
The 2014 It's a Man's (Celluloid) World report by San Diego State University's Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film revealed that female characters made up just 12 per cent of protagonists in the top 100 domestic-grossing films of 2014. The figure has fallen by 3 per cent over the past year and is 4 per cent below the number in 2002.
Women made up 29 per cent of major characters overall, and 30 per cent of all speaking characters, the same percentage as in 2013.
But men enjoy a much wider variety of roles and are much more likely to play authority figures. Most female characters are skewed younger in age than their male counterparts, and they were also more likely to be identified by domestic roles such as wife, mother and girlfriend, the study found. Black and Latina female roles also declined, though Asian female roles saw a slight increase in number. Some 11 per cent of female characters were black, 4 per cent were Latina, and 4 per cent were Asian.
Dr Martha Lauzen, the executive director of the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, said: "The chronic under-representation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry."
Oscars 2015 nominations
Oscars 2015 nominations
1/28 Birdman - 10 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
2/28 The Grand Budapest Hotel - 10 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Director (Wes Anderson), Best Picture, Film Editing, Production Design, for Makeup and Hairstyling, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Original Score
3/28 The Imitation Game - 8 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actor ( Keira Knightley) Best Director (Morten Tyldum), Film Editing, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
4/28 American Sniper - 6 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
5/28 Boyhood - 6 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Actress in Supporting role (Patricia Arquette) Film Editing, Best Director (Richard Linklater), Original Screenplay
6/28 Whiplash - 5 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
7/28 The Theory of Everything - 5 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
Working Title Films
8/28 Foxcatcher - 5 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Actor (Steve Carrell), Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling
9/28 Selma - 2 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song
10/28 Mr Turner
Oscar nominated for Production Design, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Score
Reese Witherspoon is Oscar-nominated for best actress in a leading role and Laura Dern is nominated for best supporting actress
12/28 Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard has been nominated in the best actress category
Oscar nominated for Original Screenplay
14/28 Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike is Oscar nominated for best actress in a leading role
Twentieth Century Fox
Nominated for Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Original Score
16/28 Still Alice
Best actress in a leading role nomination for Julianne Moore
17/28 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Oscar nominated for Sound Editing
18/28 Into The Woods
Oscar nominated for Production Design, Costume Design, Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)
19/28 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Robert Redford and Chris Evans film is nominated for Special Effects
20/28 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Nominated for an Oscar in the Visual Effects category
20th Century Fox
21/28 The Lego Movie
Oscar nominated for best song 'Everything Is Awesome' but snubbed in best animation category
22/28 X-Men, Days of the Future Past
Oscar nominated in the Visual Effects category
Alan Markfield / 2013 Marvel & Subs / 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
23/28 Begin Again
Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in Begin Again which is Oscar nominated for best original song
24/28 Guardians Of The Galaxy
Nominated for Visual Effects, for Makeup and Hairstyling
Oscar nominated for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography
26/28 How To Train Your Dragon 2
Oscar nominated for Animated Feature Film
Oscar nominated for Costume Design
© Disney Enterprises, Inc.
28/28 Inherent Vice
Oscar nominated for Adapted Screenplay
Reese Witherspoon said she set up her production company, Pacific Standard, to green-light more films with prominent female roles. She produced Gone Girl, which gave a leading role to Rosamund Pike, who now competes against Witherspoon, the star of Wild, for the Best Actress Oscar.
Dr Lauzen analysed 2,300 characters appearing in the top-grossing US films of 2014. She made comparisons with findings from 2013, 2011 and 2002, for more than 9,000 characters appearing in around 400 films. A separate study conducted by Dr Lauzen found that just 17 per cent of powerful behind-the-scenes roles were held by women working on the top 250 grossing films of 2014.Reuse content