According to an annual report out of San Diego State University, 2019 has been a year of “unprecedented gains” for leading women in top-grossing movies. The report was written by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of SDSU's Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television. Out of the top 100 domestic feature films of 2019, 40 percent feature a female protagonist. This is a nine-percent jump from 2018, when that number was only 31 percent.

These findings follow Lauzen's previous installment of “It’s a Man's (Celluloid) World” last week, which investigated the growth of women's off-screen roles. Both studies reveal the higher likelihood of women to employ other women, both in front of and behind the camera. On a film with at least one female writer or director, women accounted for 58 percent of protagonists. That's significantly more than the 30 percent on movies where the writers and directors were exclusively male.

While this is undoubtedly progress, it should also still be noted that two-thirds (66 percent) of all speaking roles in 2019 were played by male actors. That's a 2-1 male-to-female ratio. Deadline shares that Lauzen is optimistic about the future of women in the film industry: “We have now seen two consecutive years of substantial gains for female protagonists, indicating the beginning of a positive shift in representation." However, she also points out that "moviegoers are still almost twice as likely to see a male character as a female character in a speaking role.” In other words, there's still more work to be done in 2020.

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