2018 was a good year for films of all genres and cast compositions, but it is no secret that the majority of the films are still led by men. However, results from a study conducted by Shift7 and CAA show that movies with female leads have dominated box offices around the world since 2014. Bechdel.com conducted their own research and found that films which pass the Bechdel test, also out-earn films which do not pass the test; in fact, every movie that has made over $1 billion in global box offices since 2014 has passed the Bechdel test.
By looking at data from the 350 top grossing films since 2014, 105 were led by women and the remaining 245 by men. The films were separated into different brackets depending upon their budgets. Throughout all the categories, the average earnings for each category of film starring a female out-performed their male counterparts. Casting women in lead roles is definitely still the exception and not the rule, but hopefully the results of these studies are the evidence needed to push the film industry towards a more inclusive environment and will extinguish the long-held attitude that male protagonists bring in greater revenue than female ones.
So, why do we as an audience gravitate towards films that star women? Is it a conscious effort on our part, due to the surge in feminist movements and the pressure on Hollywood to be more inclusive? Or could it be that the pressure to make more interesting and developed female characters has simultaneously produced more interesting stories? There are several reasons for this move towards the female lead, but perhaps one of the central reasons is because we are given newer and fresher stories. There is the age-old idea that there are only seven stories a person can tell, and to be quite frank, we have seen all seven told by men for years on end. We may still be seeing the same seven stories, but at least they are being told from a different perspective. Take superhero films for example, the number of Superman reboots is impressive, but the most recent films have flopped significantly, especially when you compare it to Wonder Woman which brought in 821.8 million US dollars. Looking past DC’s questionable film quality, Wonder Woman is just one example of how audiences are craving new stories.
The rise in female-led films is exciting and points towards a future where there is equal representation for all genders in film, but do not let these results fool you into thinking that there is a wealth of films which accurately and fairly depict women. There is still quite a way to go until we reach equal representation, as there is still a tendency to cast men or produce films with a male lead because the formula works. Sure, it may not bring in as much money as women-led films, but nevertheless, what is generated is enough to keep the moguls of Hollywood happy and well fed.
Image courtesy of Slash Film