See Jane

Last night, I had the chance to attend a fascinating talk about female characters in film and television. Geena Davis was one of the speakers and she talked about an early catalyzing experience, which inspired her to start an institution. From their web page:

Five years ago, while watching children’s television programs and videos with her then 2-year old daughter, Academy Award winner Geena Davis noticed a remarkable imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters. From that small starting point, Davis went on to raise funds for the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment (resulting in 4 discrete studies, including one on children’s television).

The research showed that in the top-grossing G-rated films from 1990-2005, there were three male characters for every one female – a statistic that did not improve over time.

It gave me a lot to think about and it’s a sobering thought that it hadn’t improved in the fifteen year period of the study. But at least it’s better than the Smurfs, which had a ratio of 100 to 1…

3 Responses to “See Jane”

  1. judi Says:

    Actually, this is one of my main gripes with Docter’s films. WHERE ARE THE FEMALES?

    Both Monsters and UP were overly top heavy with male characters, especially UP. Female characters tend to be far more limited in scope and development, even when they’re central to the story. It’s never their story being told, which I find disheartening. Regarding UP, I was far more interested in Ellie than Carl; I would have rather Carl died and Ellie venture to South America, just for the wow factor of having an exciting lead female protagonist in a Pixar film.

    Hopefully, Brave will be the welcomed breath of fresh air I’ve been waiting for.

  2. Mach Says:

    A big part of it is that there is a strong emphasis for the directors to tell their own stories. On the one hand, it leads to great stories because the films are true to the director’s experiences and not subject to things like focus testing or what producers think will be profitable. But it also tends to mean that disparities in the directors tend to be reflected in the movies. Awareness of the issue will help, but when it comes down to it, people will write what they know.

    So the short answer to your question is that there will be more female characters when there are more female directors and female story board artists and female animators. So go out and encourage all the little girls you know to become writers and directors! As it is, there are very few women in the animation industry that pursue these kinds of careers. (And yes, Brave will be a welcome breath of fresh air in that sense probably due in part to the fact that the director, producer, and a couple story artists are all female.)

  3. judi Says:


    (Thanks for your comments, Mach. Much appreciated. And I wholeheartedly agree!)