Here's How Short Your Favorite Movies Would Be If You Removed Male Characters
Upon its release in 2013, Frozen quickly earned a reputation for being surprisingly, boldly feminist for a Disney movie. Instead of finding happily ever after with a prince, Princess Anna finds love and support from her sister, Elsa. Women drive the narrative.
So it's surprising to see that, if you take out all the dialogue by men, not even half the film remains.
According to a study of 2,000 popular screenplays by Polygraph, a data-based publication, only 43% of the dialogue in Frozen is spoken by female characters. Considering the film's woman-first focus, this seems incorrect — but lo and behold, the numbers bear that out.
While Anna speaks 2,397 words in Frozen, she and Elsa are the only major female characters. There are six such male characters: Kristoff, Olaf, Hans, the Duke, Oaken and the King. Combined with the fact that Elsa disappears from the narrative for a significant portion of the narrative. (She only speaks 525 words, while Olaf the snowman speaks 946.)
Frozen is hardly the only movie with gender inequality in the dialogue, even among just Disney movies. The Little Mermaid is all about Ariel, but it's crippled by the central conceit: She gives up her voice for human legs. As a result, she speaks less than both her crab friend Sebastian and antagonist Ursula, and only 29% of the film's dialogue is spoken by women.
Other Disney movies with such surprising weight on male-delivered dialogue include Mulan (75% male), Beauty and the Beast (72% male) and Pocahontas (66% male).
The trend isn't isolated to Disney movies. The 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty placed Jessica Chastain's Maya at the center of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Despite centering on a female protagonist, with her speaking over 3,700 words, 62% of the movie's words are spoken by men.
Unsurprisingly, superhero movies also suffer in this regard. Despite a celebrated co-star like Black Widow, The Avengers' dialogue is 87% man-delivered. The Dark Knight? Men say 90% of the words in the script.
None of this should be all that surprising, though, considering the depth of Hollywood's diversity problem. When only 30% of named characters in top films are women between 2007 and 2014 — over seven years! — there's naturally going to be less dialogue for them. But what Polygraph's breakdown does is prove, in cold, hard data, exactly how skewed the gender breakdown is: Only 22% of the 2,000 scripts analyzed feature women speaking the most amount of dialogue.
Read Polygraph's full breakdown for more.