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Register count of breeding pellicle leads, US study suggests

Register count of breeding pellicle leads, US study suggests
Brie Larson, Angelina Jolie and Renee Zellweger have all starred in box office successes

Female characters had their biggest-ever representation in box office films last year, according to research.

The said a record 40% of 2019's highest-grossing US movies had women in a lead role - up 9%.

But black and minority ethnic (BAME) women are being left behind, the annual report also suggests.

Films on the list include Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Joker and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Compiled from information from , the study said that 43% of the biggest movies had a male lead, while titles with equal male/female leads or ensemble casts accounted for the remaining 17%.

Film critic Dr Rebecca Harrison told the BBC the increase of representation in leading women on screen is "great" for megastar white actresses like Brie Larson, Angelina Jolie and Renee Zellweger, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie - who received two Bafta nominations in the same category this week. But "for women of colour" she added, "representation is still appalling".

The main female characters in question proved to be white 68% of the time, compared to their black colleagues (20%). Asian women made up 7% of the roles and Latina women 5%.

"The intersectional oppressions are alive and well," said Dr Harrison.

Awkwafina won a Golden Globe for The Farewell, but Cynthia Erivo (r) who played slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman missed out on a Bafta nomination

The survey - which began in 2002, when big female lead roles were at a lowly 16% - arrives after a week of criticism around the unfair treatment of women and BAME people, either side of the camera.

It's a Man's (Celluloid) World, which is the name of the study, suggested that in films with at least one female writer and/or director, 58% of the main characters were female.

That figure dropped to 30% in films made by men.

'Very disappointed'

Last week the Golden Globes again did not recognise any women in their five-strong all-male pool for best director - won by Sam Mendes for his war epic, 1917. And this week no women were nominated in the same category for a seventh year in a row at the Baftas.

Amanda Berry, head of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, admitted she was "very disappointed" by the lack of diversity.

Deputy chairman Krishnendu Majumdar said the lack of female directors nominated was an "industry-wide problem" and they were "fiercely doing something about it" with schemes like Elevate, which supports talent from underrepresented groups.

In 2018, the academy announced new diversity quotas - or "eligibility criteria" - for two of the award categories; best outstanding British film and outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer, in a bid to "support an open, accessible and inclusive industry".

about the fact Margot Robbie had relatively few lines in his Golden Globe-winning Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood.

Quentin Tarantino and Margot Robbie worked together on Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood - the biggest overall winner at the Golden Globes

Dr Harrison said: "It's all well and good saying, 'OK women were protagonists in 40% of the films', but we don't really know what their role was in those films without looking at the kind of qualitative textual analysis that goes on, beyond just the numbers,

"So were these women protagonists in films being represented in a positive way? Did they die at the end? Were they the survivors of some kind of horrific sexual abuse on screen? Were they given lots of dialogue?"

"I think all of these conversations are always about trying to find a balance between celebrating the positive, but also making sure that we're constantly paying attention to areas for improvement," she concluded.

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10 January 2020, 1:57