It’s official: women in film speak less the older they get, yet men are lauded for ageing

Posted by
Harriet Hall

A census of over 2,000 films has revealed how women get less dialogue in films the older they get, while male dialogue increases with age.

The survey, conducted by Polygraph, looked at film screenplays and matched the lines to actors. Then, they compared the ages of all cast members in each film at the time of the film’s release.

The results revealed, as we suspected, that women are increasingly marginalised in Hollywood as they age, with women between the ages of 22 and 31 speaking 38% of all female dialogue – a figure which falls to 31% after the age of 32 and to 20% for actors aged 42-65.

Surprisingly, though, the results were completely opposite for men, revealing that male characters were celebrated the older they got, up until the age of 65. Men between the ages of 42 to 65 were given 39% of the dialogue, compared with those aged between 32-41, who were given only 32%, or those aged 22 to 31 – 20%.

Both genders received far less dialogue when they reached the age of 65, however – with women at 3% and men at 5%.


Male characters have most dialogue, even in the case of female-led films like Mulan

The journalists at Polygraph decided to conduct the study following their analysis of all the films that do and don’t pass the Bechdel Test. When commenters argued that the test was inaccurate, Polygraph decided to choose another way of analysing gender roles in film.

As well as the ageism investigation, they decided to find out the percentage of lines female actors had, compared to male actors, following news in January that men received disproportionately more lines in Disney films than women.

Analysing 30 Disney films, they found that 22 out of the 30 have male majority of dialogue – even in the case of films with a female lead, such as Mulan.

Image: Polygraph

Image: Polygraph

Even Frozen, hailed as Disney’s most feminist film, didn’t have majority female dialogue, although it did have a more even spread – at 57% male dialogue, and 43% female.

Inside OutMaleficent and Alice in Wonderland had more female than male dialogue, though.

In non-Disney films, Polygraph found that in only 22% of all 2,000 screenplays studied, did women have the most dialogue.

Even when it came to romcoms, 58% of the dialogue is male. In the case of Pretty Woman and 10 Things I Hate About You which both have female leads, men have 52% dialogue.

The study confirms the shocking gender bias in Hollywood.