Women in Speaking Roles

When I think about women being under-represented in hollywood films today, I think more about the types of women portrayed – accessories to strong male leads, or one-dimensional and stereotypical. I’ve seen the same archetypes over and over – Clingy Girlfriend or Crazy Career Woman or “I’m Pretty but I’m wearing glasses so no one knows I’m pretty woman!”

If I’m not getting angry over the types of women portrayed, I’m angry because there’s not enough plays and screenplays written by women being produced.

These are both upsetting reasons to be frustrated with the current state of women in film and theater.

But, one aspect of it all that I hadn’t thought about was sparked by seeing this headline in USA Today.

Men talk and women show skin 

Nancy Hellmich wrote:

“An analysis of the 100 top-grossing movies of 2008 shows that men had 67% of the speaking roles; women had about half that, 33%.”*

I hadn’t really thought about how many women’s voices are heard. Maybe this is some obvious “how did I never notice this before!?” moment in my head, but regardless, it’s interesting.

I had always thought the debate was more about what exactly the female characters were actually SAYING and DOING, but now I see it’s also about having MORE female characters who have differentiated voices.

*And yes, this study is from 2008, but I’m sure the point still holds true.

So, when I write screenplays and plays and have lots of female characters, I’m not going to back down when a producer tells me that I need some more “strong male leads.”


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