Most feminists and critics alike recognize that on the whole, men (or more accurately, white men) overwhelmingly outnumber women in the film industry, both on screen and behind the camera. 

But while it feels like common knowledge to many of us that something is rotten in the state of Hollywood, it's not always easy to find cold, hard numbers to back it up.

That's precisely what led Hannah Anderson and Matt Daniels to publish a new comprehensive study of film dialogue on Polgyraph, and what they found isn't surprising: men, on the whole, are given more lines of dialogue than women in almost all cases. 

The interactive series of graphs, which can be found in their entirety on the Polygraph website, charts the dialogue of roughly 2,000 different films, which is "quite arguably the largest undertaking of script analysis, ever," according to the researchers. From there they broke down the dialogue by gender and age of the actor performing the lines, and the movies by genre, year, and percentage of male vs female speakers. 

The result? Men speak more than women, lead more movies than women, and are given more dialogue at an older age than women of the same age, all at a statistically significant rate. And it's not just in genres that are already male-dominated, like action movies and buddy comedies; many films that are traditionally marketed to women have more men speaking in them, as the researchers note: "romantic comedies have dialogue that is, on average, 58% male." 

Even Disney, a company that makes billions of dollars marketing their movies towards young girls, is guilty of giving more dialogue to their male characters according to Polygraph's findings:

Polygraph Disney dialogue gender chart
photo: Polygraph

Of course, not all films that favor one gender or another are sexist for doing so. For example, of course "Master and Commander" isn't going to feature any women in it because it's a work of historical fiction that takes place on a boat in the 18th century, where there tended not to be any women. (The study also singles out "Mulan" as an example of a movie that feature mostly male dialogue but is actually about a woman). 

The problem, then, is not in individual stories but in the overall trend that prevents certain stories from getting made in favor of others — and it's clear that the film industry carries a clear preference towards male stories. Only eight — eight! — of the 2,000 films studied were 90% women, compared to 314 that were 90% men, and more than than half of the films featured anywhere from 60% to 90% male dialogue. 

The data might not be perfect, but the very least, now we have another example of proof that this is an issue and that women don't see as much of themselves in movies as men do. Now what is Hollywood going to do about it?

To explore the study in full, head to the Polygraph website


Are you surprised by this study?