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More Than Just a Sidekick

Hollywood has a representation problem.

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Lawrence told us that she made far less than her male costars, and admitted that she knew it was because she was a woman, but didn’t quite know how to fix it.

A few months ago, Viola Davis told us in the plainest words possible that women of color cannot fill roles in film and on television that simply aren’t there.

A few months before that, Kerry Washington told us that having your story told – as a woman, as a person of color, as a trans person, and as anyone who has been marginalized or disenfranchised – remains a radical and controversial idea.

Last year, Cate Blanchett told us that the wide release and success of a female-driven, Oscar-winning film finally proves that women’s experiences cannot be dismissed as “niche.”

And for years, Geena Davis has told us that when she dove into the movie industry by starring in Thelma and Louise, she saw a turning point approaching; today, she tells us that she’s still waiting for that turning point.

For us, that turning point is today.

In the hundreds of action movies that hit theaters every year, we see the same type of person saving the day: a big, buff, scowling man. Okay, maybe he isn’t always scowling, but more often than not, he’s a he.

Only 12% of protagonists in major Hollywood films are female. In movies across the board – G-rated, family films included – male speaking characters outnumber female speaking characters three to one.

And although we want to think this is getting better, it’s not: The ratio of male-to-female characters in film has been virtually the same for 60 years.

On a list of the top 500 films of all time, ranked by box office success, only 1% of films star women of color. That’s six in 500, and the only live action movie of the six, Sister Act, was released in 1992.

Think about that: It’s been almost twenty-five years since we’ve had a top grossing live action film that was led by woman of color.

And only one film – not 1%, but just one single film – out of 500 was directed by a woman of color.

The rest of the stats from behind the camera aren’t any better.

You might think that the editing room is a respite for women in film and entertainment, but that’s not the case. In 2014, 15% of films had female directors, 20% had female writers, and a mere 8% had female cinematographers.

Our girls deserve action heroes with flowing hair and combat boots. Our girls deserve to see themselves onscreen as well as calling the shots behind the scenes. Our girls deserve more.



To read about some real-life heroes, click here

  1. I wrote Daughter of Xanadu, which would make a great feature film – action, adventure, romance – with an Asian woman protagonist. Let me know which major film studio would like to produce it!

  2. Any stereotype that lessens the power of the individual needs to be broken. Being female or Asian or black or old cannot stop us from being strong, funny, fearless or brave. When will all our voices be heard?

  3. our girls deserve heros, but it is Eurocentric and diminishing of those with short hair to say that they need to have “flowing hair.” in efforts of feminism, be mindful of when delusions of supremacy wiggle in.

  4. I just stumbled upon this thanks to a new friend and this is exactly the kind of thing I want my 6 year old daughter to see! As a girl and being black, she need this kind of role model. Thanks and I will be purchasing VERY soon!

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