A study released Thursday revealed that the representation of women protagonists in the 100 top-grossing films actually dropped in 2017, according to The Hollywood Reporter. San Diego University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television in Film discovered that women represented only 24 percent of protagonists on screen in 2017, compared to 29 percent in 2016.
That five percent decline is even more abysmal when it's broken down by race. Seventy-four percent of the women characters were white. Meanwhile, there were minor gains for women of color on screen: 16 percent of the women were black, compared to 14 percent in 2016; Latina representation doubled from 3 percent to 6 percent; Asian women comprised 7 percent of the women on screen, a negligible bump from six percent in 2016.
There's also a huge disparity in the types of films women are starring in. The study found that women protagonists are more likely to be included in independent features than studio features (65 percent compared to 35 percent). They are also, unsurprisingly, more likely to lead in dramas and comedies (30 percent) than in sci-fi films (four percent).
That means that while movies like Wonder Woman and The Shape of Water are exciting, there's still a ton of work to be done when it comes to making sure women get leading roles in big movies. SDSU also showed that in films directed or written by women, women comprised 45 percent of protagonists, compared to 20 percent from crews of men—meaning we need more people like Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, and Patty Jenkins, women and especially women of color, to get behind the camera.
It's still early into 2018, but there's already some hope that this year’s stats might be better, including the badass women starring in Marvel’s new Black Panther, Annihilation starring Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez, and Ava DuVernay’s forthcoming women-led picture A Wrinkle in Time.