For Women in Movies, a 'Catastrophic Step Back'

Less than a third of top-grossing films of 2023 featured a girl or woman in leading or co-lead role
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2024 8:12 AM CST
Updated Mar 2, 2024 12:05 PM CST
For Women in Movies, a 'Catastrophic Step Back'
Lily Gladstone during the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Sunday in Santa Monica, California.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

If you're still torqued that Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig got snubbed by the Academy, that's just "the tip of the iceberg," according to a new report by USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The research led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith looked at the 100 top-grossing films of 2023 to see how many featured girls or women in leading or co-lead roles, and there were only 30—a "sharp downturn" compared with 2022's roster, which saw 44 movies that met that criteria, per Variety.

Last year's number matched the one seen in 2010. The study reviewed 1,700 of the top-grossing movies from 2007 to 2023, looking at the gender, race/ethnicity, and age of each film's leads and co-leads. For female actors 45 or older, the news is even worse, with only three films featuring women in lead or co-lead roles: Keri Russell in Cocaine Bear, Nia Vardalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, and Salma Hayek in Magic Mike's Last Dance. Hayek was also the only woman of color to make the list.

"This is a catastrophic step back for girls and women in film," Smith says in the USC statement. "In the last 14 years, we have charted progress in the industry, so to see this reversal is both startling and in direct contrast to all of the talk of 2023 as the 'year of the woman.'" Smith added: "We cannot explain the collapse of women leads/co-leads in 2023 other than to say that this is an industry failure." The USC release notes that films on Netlix fare much better in this regard, with more than half of those movies released since 2019 featuring female leads or co-leads. (More movies stories.)

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