This is fascinating. Actress/Producer Geena Davis has crunched some numbers about depictions of women in family-rated films (i.e. the kind of movies that young kids see), and discovered some shocking stats. This story relates to the representation topic, of course, but also to the media effects debate, because the underlying argument is that exposure to these kind of representation over time has a long-term effect on values and attitudes. This latter idea, by the way, has a name: Gerbner Cultivation theory.
The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.
It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head.