The Geena Davis Institute conducted an analysis of the top 100 grossing animated and non-animated family films between 2007-2017, called The Geena Benchmark Report, which studied the gender, racial, sexuality, and disability disparities within protagonists of these films. Within the study as a whole, researchers discovered that male leads outnumber female leads two to one. Half of movie-goers are women and 51% of women populate the U.S., yet male characters in family films constitute 71.3% of leading roles. There has been a slight increase of female protagonists within the ten-year study with 30.1% of leads in 2017 compared to 23.8% from 2007.
Percentage of Female Leads in the Top 100 Family Films
Although it’s great news to see an upward trend, 6.3% in ten years just isn’t enough when over half the population is women. Percentages in their racially-based findings are even more grim with 16.7% leads of color in family films, with only 26% of that percentage being women. However, there was a surge in domestic box office revenue between 2015 and 2016 with leads of color surpassing family films with white leads. 40% of movie-goers are people of color, so its promising to see family films with racial diversity be more profitable in the last few years.
Percentage of Leads of Color in the Top 100 Family Films
Domestic Box Office Revenue by Race
Research shows that when film genres are broken down, women protagonists are the least represented in action, adventure, and comedy. That’s 9.4%, 23.6%, and 28.7% of women leads in each of those genres.
On a more uplifting note, the study also analyzed the domestic box office revenue of women lead films and found that revenue almost doubled ($44.3 million to $80.1 million) from 2007-2017.
Domestic Box Office Revenue by Gender
In international box offices, female lead family films even surpassed male lead films in 2016 and 2017.
International Box Office Revenue by Gender
These gender and race disparities pose an issue because people, especially children, look to the media for role models and stories that reflect what matters most in our culture. With family films lacking in female leads, we are telling young girls that their stories are unimportant, or they don’t even get to see themselves as the hero or in the story at all. It wipes out populations of people when we just focus on one target audience of straight, able-bodied, white men.
A few ways we can abolish these large gaps in representation would be diversifying the writer’s room, equalizing the marketing resources that films with male directors have, and by telling real stories about the real world we live in made up of women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, and people with disabilities. Although there has been an upward trend with women being protagonists in the last decade, we haven’t achieved equality yet with the number of male-led family films still exceeding women.
Study used in summary report: https://seejane.org/research-informs-empowers/the-geena-benchmark-report-2007-2017/