Huge gen­der gap in film world

USC study finds that movies are still dom­i­nated by men, on- and off-screen.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Son­aiya Kelley

As the first fe­male star of a su­per­hero fran­chise, Won­der Woman may have em­pow­ered fe­male view­ers, fe­male film­mak­ers and the sum­mer box of­fice, but she is still a lone Ama­zon in the world of men.

Ac­cord­ing to a new USC study, women re­main strik­ingly un­der­rep­re­sented in film, both on- and off-screen. And when they show up, they are still por­trayed in stereo­typ­i­cal ways.

At the Viterbi School of En­gi­neer­ing’s Sig­nal Anal­y­sis and In­ter­pre­ta­tion Lab at USC, Shrikanth Narayanan, the Niki and C.L. Max Nikias Chair in En­gi­neer­ing, and a team of re­searchers used au­to­mated soft­ware to an­a­lyze the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of lan­guage and char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tion in nearly 1,000 scripts, por­ing over 53,000 dia­logues be­tween 7,000 char­ac­ters.

What they found was a whole lot of men — 4,900 male char­ac­ters to 2,000 fe­male char­ac­ters — do­ing a whole lot of talk­ing — men par­tic­i­pated in 37,000, the women got only 15,000 dia­logues.

Not sur­pris­ingly, there were seven times as many male screen­writ­ers listed as fe­male and al­most 12 times as many male di­rec­tors.

Women fared bet­ter as pro­duc­ers — only three times as many men as women — and were the ma­jor­ity of the cast­ing di­rec­tors by al­most 2-1.

That the ma­jor­ity of cast­ing di­rec­tors were fe­male seemed to have no ef­fect on the gen­der makeup of char­ac­ters. How­ever, the re­searchers found, if fe­male writ­ers were present in the writ­ers room, fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the story was, on av­er­age, 50% higher.

The study also found that in the ma­jor­ity of films, the fe­male char­ac­ters tended to be about five years younger than their male coun­ter­parts and not cen­tral to the plot.

“If we were to re­move a par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter, we can see if the cen­tral­ity of the graph changes, which re­flects how im­por­tant they were to the script,” said Narayanan. “And we found that if you re­move fe­male char­ac­ters, the cen­tral­ity

doesn’t change as much as it does for males. So one thing we’re find­ing is that across these var­i­ous sto­ries, more cen­tral roles are given to male char­ac­ters.”

Ac­cord­ing to the study, stereo­types — of gen­der, age and race — abounded when films ad­dressed top­ics in­clud­ing emo­tional arousal (ex­cite­ment), va­lence (pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive emo­tion), sex, achievement, re­li­gion, death and swear­ing.

For ex­am­ple, fe­male char­ac­ters tended to be more pos­i­tive, us­ing lan­guage typ­i­cally associated with fam­ily val­ues, while male char­ac­ters tended to speak more about achievement-ori­ented top­ics. Male char­ac­ters also spoke more about death and used curse words more than their fe­male coun­ter­parts.

Sim­i­larly, re­searchers found that Latino and mixed-race char­ac­ters spoke more about sex­u­al­ity than white char­ac­ters, while African Amer­i­can char­ac­ters had a greater per­cent­age of swear words than other races.

Re­searchers found that older char­ac­ters were more likely to ap­pear “sage-like”: in­tel­li­gent, less ex­cited and with less men­tion of sex­u­al­ity and more talk of re­li­gion.

The study, “Lin­guis­tic Anal­y­sis of Dif­fer­ences in Por­trayal of Movie Char­ac­ters,” will ap­pear in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Assn. for Com­pu­ta­tional Lin­guis­tics, 2017.

Clay Enos Warner Bros.

WON­DER WOMAN (Gal Gadot) can best foes, but she can’t best Hol­ly­wood.

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