The Roles and Portrayal of Women in Film Over Time: A Content Analysis of Films from 1939-2002
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
John A. Addleman, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology
Based on the critiques of feminist film theorists, the present study examined the portrayal of women in film over time. A content analysis of Academy Award winning films from 1939-2001 revealed that there were significantly fewer female characters than male characters overall, with minority females being particularly under-represented as compared to whites and the actual population. Females tended to be shown in low-status occupations with few changes overall, though occupational variety increased after 1970. Though large cultural trends seemed to be somewhat reflected in the portrayal of women in film across the decades, generally the data of this study were characterized by the startling consistency of female portrayal over time. It was suggested that the relatively small change overall in the portrayal of women in Academy Award winning films may reflect the values of the white, male majority of filmmakers and film elite rather than overall American population. Future research should investigate the same questions within a different film genre such as each year's top-grossing films in order to determine if the same trends are reflected.
Simon, Allison M., "The Roles and Portrayal of Women in Film Over Time: A Content Analysis of Films from 1939-2002" (2004). Honors Projects and Presentations: Undergraduate. 226.