The annual report from Geena Davis Institute on Gender reveals that children’s television has achieved historic gender parity, but female and LGBTQ+ representation are still in need of improvement.
The “See Jane 2019″ study analyzed representations of gender, race, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities in popular entertainment media in 2018, and concluded that in children’s television, the number of female leads and co-leads rose to 52%, from 42%, over the past decade. The analysis also reveals that female characters had roughly half of the screen and speaking time. However, gender parity doesn’t extend to supporting characters and minor characters in the same shows.
And while parity has been achieved, there remain issues with female (and male) portrayals on screen. The study discovered an age bias in children’s entertainment, finding that older women are often erased from media altogether, with older male characters often playing a positive role.
And while female characters are often more likely to be shown in leadership roles on TV, they are also seven times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing, reinforcing gender stereotypes. Both male and female characters are likely to be involved in a STEM occupation, and female characters are more likely to be shown as intelligent, but less likely to be seen as funny.
In children’s films, the dial on the gender gap is slowly trending upward. Analyzing the top-100 films rated G, PG and PG-13, the findings show that characters are majority male, and the percentages are extremely low for speaking and screen time for female characters. Females are more likely to be in their teens, while males are more likely in their 40s and 50s.
The gendered negative portrayals of characters continue, putting female characters in revealing clothing, and male characters shown to be more violent and criminal, more likely to die and be in the military. Females are shown to be more intelligent than men in children’s films. Interestingly, films that featured male and female co-leads grossed the most money, while male-led children’s films often landed in second at the box office, while female-led films bringing in the rear.
The report cites that all popular films (versus just children’s films) were better at having both male and female leads, but gender parity is still elusive, and female characters don’t have many speaking opportunities, or screen time. Just as in children’s film, female characters are more often seen in their teens. In the reverse of the children’s television situation, on film male characters are still more likely to be in a position of leadership.
In terms of sexuality, representation of LGBTQ+ characters are “virtually non-existent” in children’s television, even though 3.4% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+. The majority of leading supporting and minority characters are heterosexual, with three transgender characters appearing in the most-watched children’s program, and they are all transgender women. Meanwhile in children’s film, there are just two gay leading characters, and three transgender minor characters. When there is representation, the study revealed that LGBT+ characters in children’s TV are likely to be seen as having low intelligence, criminal, and verbally sexually objectified. In all of the TV and film studied, LGBT+ characters are more likely shown as partially nude and more promiscuous.
Read all of our coverage on the “See Jane 2019” report.