The largest analysis of gender in movie dialogue is out, and it ain't pretty

The largest analysis of gender in movie dialogue ever has just released its results, and as you might suspect, it's mostly bad news.

The good news: Canadian films fared much better than average on female dialogue

Brie Larson and Joan Allen in Room, a film that is a major exception to the study's general findings with 63% of its dialogue spoken by women. (Element Pictures)

The largest analysis ever of gender in movie dialogue has just released its results — and as you might suspect, it's mostly bad news.

Polygraph — a website dedicated to pop culture-related data — took on a whopping 2,000 film screenplays and broke down characters with at least 100 words of dialogue by gender and age. The results? Only 22% of the screenplays offer women the most dialogue, while the amount of dialogue by age range was similarly problematic. Dialogue for actresses over 40 years old decreased substantially, while for men it was the exact opposite: there are more roles available to older actors, as outlined by the chart below.

One of the most disheartening things noted in the study was their analysis of Disney films. Earlier this year, another study found major problems with Disney "princess films" in that, on average, the male characters had significantly more dialogue. Polygraph doubled the sample of that initial study to 30 films and found that 22 of them had a male majority when it came to dialogue. This was somehow even true of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mulan and Pocahontas, despite each of them arguably having a female lead.

Somehow they'll make a man out of you. (Disney)

Though the study was heavily based on Hollywood fare, we did find eight recent Canadian titles (or at least "co-Canadian" titles) that were included: Barney's Version, Brooklyn, Cosmopolis, Maps To The Stars, Room, Remember, Take This Waltz and The Whistleblower. They collectively offered some very welcome news when it came to their representation of women, as five of the eight films (or 62%) had the majority of their dialogue offered by female characters:

Brooklyn: 32% male/68% female
The Whistleblower: 36% male/64% female
Room: 39% male/61% female
Maps To The Stars: 45% male/55% female
Take This Waltz: 48% male/52% female
Barney's Version: 69% male/31% female
Cosmopolis: 74% male/26% female
Remember: 89% male/11% female

Not all good news for Canadian films: only 11% of the dialogue in Atom Egoyan's screenplay for Remember is spoken by women.

Clearly these eight films cannot be considered a proper representation of Canadian films as a whole (the fact that the study did not feature any French-Canadian titles is pretty glaring in that regard), and we didn't quite have the time read a few hundred screenplays to try and make up for that. But it's a hopeful sampling nonetheless.​

You can browse through Polygraph's findings below, and head here for further analysis.


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