Women have long been integral within cinema, but they have also been hidden figures within a male dominated culture. A study looking at over 1,000 films made between 2007 and 2017 found that of the top 100 films of 2017, women only comprised 31.8% of speaking roles in the film, and that only 4.3% of films directed between 2007 and 2017 were directed by women – with even less directed by women from ethnic minority backgrounds.
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Here, Sterling Media reviews the importance of women representation on screen and behind the camera.
The demand for a greater role for women has also increasingly begun to be reflected on screen, particularly within genres and franchises traditionally defined by their male character. The Star Wars Franchise’s Disney-led return to the big screen notably featured a female protagonist in both 2015’s Star Wars The Force Awakens and 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and were amongst the top 3 highest grossing films released in their respective years.
Female dominated films are also receiving both critical and commercial acclaim as demonstrated by 2017’s Wonder Woman, the first standalone superhero film led by a woman, which not only made $821 Million at the box office but inspired millions of young girls and women across the world who at last had a hero who looked like them.
Creating better representation for women on screen does not necessarily mean having a film led by a female character as Marvel Studio’s Black Panther showed in 2018. In addition to the outstanding critical and audience reception the film received for being a superhero blockbuster with an almost completely black cast and celebrating African culture, it was also praised for having a strong female supporting cast including Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, who played significant roles, resulting in a far greater proportion of female speaking and screen time than the vast majority of other Hollywood films over the past decade – let alone speaking and screen time for black females.
The demand for more women on screen is now also leading to a greater variety of stories being told from a woman’s perspective, as highlighted by the success of 2018 period dramas The Favourite and Mary, Queen of Scots, which both focus on the female characters and their relationships at the heart of their historical settings.
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