Returning to a familiar topic, I must rant once again about the lack of female characters in animated movies. The last time I blogged about this, some commenters questioned my analysis, so I'm going to get real technical here. Here are the animated movies with major release in the US in 2011. I counted the male and female voice roles on imdb.com. I'm not looking at how male and female characters were portrayed, I'm just looking at the numbers.
Kung Fu Panda 2: male - 12, female - 3
Arthur Christmas: male - 9, female - 6
Tintin: male - 13, female - 1
Cars 2: male - 13, female - 2
Gnomeo & Juliet: male - 11, female - 3
Rango: male - 12, female - 3
Mars Needs Moms: male - 8, female - 7
Rio: male - 8, female - 7
Hoodwinked Too: male - 11, female - 4
Puss in Boots: male - 11, female - 4
Happy Feet Two: male - 11, female - 4
Let's break this down. In the animal kingdom, male to female ratio is almost exactly 1:1. However, in Hollywood animated movies, males outnumber females on average 13:4. Total characters from 2011 animated movies: male -130, females - 42. There are always more male characters in an animated movie than female. ALWAYS. I have not found a single animated movie made in the US in the past 20 years where that wasn't the case. And usually by a huge margin. (European-made movies generally don't have this problem. [EDIT: Or Japan, as some of you rightly pointed out!]) Props to Rio, Mars Needs Moms, and Arthur Christmas. Their main characters were male and the majority of characters were male, but at least they included a respectable number of speaking female characters. Tintin, really? You're going to give one female a voice in your entire movie? Cars 2? I generally love Pixar, but they are perennially disappointing in the numbers. Incredibles is the only one of their movies with even a decent ratio. (I don't even want to tally the numbers on my beloved Muppets.)
Animators, studios, writers - I am ashamed! I have daughters and a son. I would like them raised believing that girls are as worthy of being characters as boys. Girls matter. Girls do things. Girls have voices that deserve to be heard. That's not what your movies illustrate. I really hope that's not what you believe.
I'm not even asking for female main characters. I guess that's just too much to hope for in the 21st century. I'm not campaigning for strong or realistic female characters. We're not even ready for that yet. I'm just asking for ANY female characters. Some of this may be an accident. Most screenwriters are male, men naturally write more characters of their own gender. But some of this is on purpose. Some of this is studio execs believing that boy-heavy movies sell more tickets than girl-heavy. And for that, we parents are partly to blame. Do we take our girls to see "boy" movies but think our boys won't put up with "girl" movies so don't expose them to it? Do some people believe that if boys watch movies about girls that will make them weak and unmanly somehow? Ick. I hope not. I hope things change. But I'm not putting money on it.
Whenever I point this out to people, I'm most often met with a reaction of "I never noticed." Have you noticed? Does it bug you too? What can we do?