In Depth

Hollywood's women get the worst lines

A study finds female characters have fewer lines and mainly talk about family values

A study of the lines spoken by characters in almost 1,000 Hollywood films has revealed a profound gender imbalance.

Analysis of scripts from films produced over several decades found female characters tended to be younger than their male partners and spoke less. When they did talk, it was often about family values, while men used language linked to achievement, sex and death. In total, men had substantially more lines – 37,000 dialogues – whereas women had just over 15,000.

The University of Southern California used cognitive and developmental language tools to analyse dialogue in a study which "builds upon recent research highlighting gender imbalances within the industry", says The Times.

The paper cites the Bechdel test — which asks if films have two named female characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man — as "also drawing attention to male dominance in film".

Hollywood Reporter published a study of last year's 25 highest-grossing films and found that only about half passed the test. Blockbuster's such as Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, The Legend of Tarzan and Kung Fu Panda 3 all failed to make the grade.

The films included in the study had seven times as many male writers, 12 times as many male directors and three times as many male producers as female. However, researchers found that female-led films consistently make more money than those led by men.

The Independent says the best way to fight entrenched sexism is for female writers to be present at script meetings, saying films made this way featured women on screen about twice as often.

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