You Can Now Search 2,000 Films for the Movies Where Women Get the Most Lines

The Lego Movie has several memorable female characters, but a new data analysis points out that male characters get 84 percent of lines. 

We’ve known for a long time that Hollywood has a diversity problem: white men get far more screentime than anyone else. On average, only 30 percent of speaking characters in Hollywood’s 500 top-grossing films are women. Meanwhile, cutting all the white people out of many blockbusters makes the films less than 60 seconds long. This is part of the systematic discrimination facing women and people of color in the film industry, where men outnumber women five to one and white dudes are the heads of nearly every major studio

Now a new analysis of scripts for 2,000 films will help film fans find movies where women have equal dialogue. For the website Polygraph, developer Hanah Anderson and editor Matt Daniels analyzed the screenplays of 2,000 films. They went through the scripts, finding characters with at least 100 lines of dialogue and matching them to the actors’ gender as listed on IMDB. The annual analysis of the gender breakdown in films from Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television looks at the country’s 100 top-grossing  films, so it’s exciting to see a report expand that to 2,000 movies. The Polygraph team’s findings aren’t surprising in any way, but they’re a novel way to see the gender disparity in our films. 

A snapshot of a new data analysis of gender in films from the website Polygraph.

This way of looking at gender representation also helps fill in some gaps of the Bechdel Test. That framework for examining films is a pass/fail grade for movies, where films pass if they feature at least two women talking to each other about something other than men in at least one scene. Coined as a half-joke by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test has taking on a whole life of its own in recent years—an extensive website lists the Bechdel Test grade for all new films and Swedish indie movie theaters made headlines in 2013 when they committed to displaying a film’s Bechdel Test grade on promotional posters. The clear need for simple ways to analyze films’ gender bias has prompted many people to note the drawbacks of the Bechdel Test: Gravity fails the test, for example, because it centers almost entirely on one female character alone in space and The Lego Movie squeaks out a passing grade thanks to exactly one line of dialogue (in the process prompting a philosophical debate about how to classify the gender of a half-kitten, half-unicorn Lego creature). The Polygraph’s analysis of who dominates dialogue in films shows a more nuanced picture of the clearly biased pattern. Analyzing 30 modern Disney films reveals that only eight of them have scripts with gender parity or majority-female lines—women only deliver 25 percent of the lines in Mulan and 29 percent in The Little Mermaid. 

        Read This Next: Sweden Is Now Rating Films for Gender Bias
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My favorite thing about this new data analysis is it creates a database where you can search for films based on genre, the year they were made, and their gender parity. For example, if I’m in the mood for a horror film with 90 percent female dialogue, the site shows I have exactly one option: 2005’s spooky spelunking flick The Descent. But if I want a comedy with majority-female dialogue, I’ve got 43 films to choose from, ranging from well-known films like Sex and the City to cult hit Heathers (if you want a majority-male comedy, by the way, you’ve got your pick of 302 titles). It would be interesting to see an analysis around race, too, so we could get a database of films to watch that include people of color in significant roles. As someone who regularly scrolls through Netflix trying to discern from films’ two-sentence summaries whether they feature many women, I think I’ll be using this site to figure out what to watch when I’ve got a free night. Having more women in the film doesn't guarantee it'll be a good film by any means, but at least I can skip accidentially queuing up a dude-fest. 

        Read This Next: Sweden Is Now Rating Films for Gender Bias
        Read This Next: Why Don't Female Directors Get Nominated for Oscars? Money, Money, Money.

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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