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USC Annenberg study targets the casting games

A study by Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti of USC Annenberg found that females represented less than one-third of all speaking characters in 2012 films.

In the last five years, Hollywood has generated well-known and popular female-driven fare such as Bridesmaids, The Hunger Games and the Twilight franchise. Given the success of these blockbusters, you might think that the number of roles for women is on the rise. Think again.

Looking back at five years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012), 500 top-grossing films at the U.S. box office and more than 21,000 speaking characters, a new study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that females represented less than one-third (28.4 percent) of all speaking characters in 2012 films.

When they were on screen, 31 percent of women in 2012 were shown with at least some exposed skin, and 31.6 percent were depicted wearing sexually revealing clothing.

Even worse?

“There has been no meaningful change in the prevalence of women on screen across the five years studied. In fact, 2012 features the lowest percentage of females in the five years covered in this report,” said USC Annenberg Professor Stacy Smith, the principal investigator. “The last few years have seen a wealth of great advocacy for more women on screen. Unfortunately, that investment has not yet paid off with an increase in female characters or a decrease in their hypersexualization.”

The authors also examined how the presentation of women varied by the age of the character.

“The findings are as provocative as the outfits, especially when teenage female characters are considered,” Smith said.

Over half of female teen characters (56.6 percent) were shown in sexy attire in 2012, compared with 39.9 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 39. Last year capped off a three-year increase in the hypersexualization of teenage girls, while for other age groups the numbers do not show the same hike.

When a female works behind the camera in the key creative role of writer or director, there are more women shown on screen, and fewer female characters are hypersexualized.

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