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Greta Gerwig responds to Little Women’s Golden Globes snub
Courtesy of Colombia Pictures

Women and people of colour star in more films in 2019 than last 13 years

Awards season might be dominated by men, but a new study suggests growing representation

The Oscars are fast approaching and, as usual, the best director category is dominated by pale and stale males. But a new study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative indicates that not all is lost, and the industry is gaining a little more ground in terms of inclusion.

According to the study, 43 of the top 100 grossing movies released in 2019 saw a girl or a woman taking on the role of protagonist or co-protagonist, which shows a growth from 2018 when just 39 films had a female lead. In 2007, only 20 films featured a female lead.

“It is clear that Hollywood is taking steps to create more inclusive stories and that those films are connecting with audiences,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Inclusion Initiative.

“Yet, there is also a very obvious disconnect between what sells tickets and what garners awards points to a systemic bias at cultural institutions like the BAFTAs or the Academy Awards. After another year in which the major studios increased their output of films with female and underrepresented leads or co-leads, it is critical to recognise that talent is not limited by gender or race/ethnicity,” she explained.

The data also saw a rise in the representation of people of colour in lead roles, with 31 of the top 100 films featuring a PoC lead, compared to 27 in 2018.

Finally, the report concluded that Disney dominated at the box office in terms of creating exposure for female and underrepresented leads. Last month, Marvel announced its first trans superhero, but whether that’s actually a positive moment is another matter.

Despite all this, a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film revealed that while the total number of films featuring women have increased by 40 per cent, most of these leading roles went to white women.

Recently, Greta Gerwig used her acceptance speech for an Auteur Award at the Kodak Film Awards to discuss difficulties of convincing figures in the film industry – “mainly dudes”, ofc – to let her shoot Little Women on celluloid. “It was a fight every step of the way,” she said. “I knew if I didn’t say I had to shoot a movie on film, I knew it wouldn’t happen.” Gerwig added that she asked Sony: “How many 35 prints did you make for Quentin (Tarantino)? How many theatres are they playing in? I want the same amount of prints.” Just this week too, Joaquin Phoenix took aim at the film industry’s racism while accepting an award at the Baftas.