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EQUAL FRIGHTS

Horror is the only film genre where women appear and speak as often as men

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out
Universal Pictures
A new breed of horror.
  • Beth Younger
By Beth Younger

Associate professor, Drake University

This article is more than 2 years old.

At the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain—who was serving as a jury member—said that she found the portrayals of women in the festival’s films “quite disturbing.”

To many, this isn’t exactly news. The lack of women in film—in front of and behind the camera—has been at the forefront of Hollywood criticism in recent years, with scholars and writers detailing the various ways women tend to be underrepresented or cast in stereotypical roles.

University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith, who researches depictions of gender and race in film and TV, found that of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were girls or women. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of films fulfill the criteria of the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

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