Wonder Woman and Girls Trip were box office smashes, but they're not the norm. A recent study from the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering found that white male characters still speak the most lines in major films.
Researchers at the engineering school looked at about 1,000 "popular" movie scripts from the past few decades, The New York Times explains. (Don't worry, they weren't poring over all the pages by hand — they used AI to perform the analysis.)
The findings weren't great; of 7,000 characters studied, almost 4,900 were men. Male characters accounted for 37,000 dialogues, while women were responsible for just 15,000.
It's not just how often the male and female characters speak that's the problem, either. The research found that male characters used language "more closely linked to achievement," while female characters' words tended to be "emotional and related to family values," according to the Times.
And for characters who weren't white, there were other stereotypes that often came into play in the script. In the scripts studied, Black characters swore more often than characters of other races, the Times notes. Latinx characters, meanwhile, were more likely to use "words related to sexuality," according to the paper.
Even age-related stereotypes came into play. The USC study found that older characters spoke more about religious topics than younger characters did.
The senior author of the study, Shrikanth Narayanan, told the Times that the findings and the school's AI technology helped with "revealing the unconscious biases that may be at play in the film industry." The findings are great, but let's be honest — some of these biases are conscious.
Of course, the best way to have diversity on screen is to start with diversity off-screen, and the findings support that idea, too. Of the movies the researchers studied, films written by women featured 50% more female characters than movies written by male writers.
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