Rates of Male/Female “Heroes” in modern day scripts

This little scriptwriter meme has been floating around the net today, and I think it’s definitely interesting from a writer’s perspective. So check it out for that alone. But then I saw someone note that they were depressed that female heroes appeared in only 77 of the 277 scripts that were analyzed. This was considered depressing by that writer–who was female. And, it is depressing in so many ways. I do get it.

But I like this chart because it’s actual data, and as with all things data-related, there are several other things here that make me go “huh.” I love numbers.

For example, 77 of 277 is 28%. If this is a reasonable facsimile of the number of female protagonists being written in all manuscripts today, some follow on questions might be: “How many were written before?” and “Are we going up the curve?” and, if so, “how fast?” Of course, there’s no way to know from this data. And I would also love to know ‘How did the female/male protag breakdown by genre?” too, which this data apparently could get but doesn’t provide. And the male/female protag breakdown of the scripts “recommended” would be interesting, too. There are a lot of additional cuts (not just gender-related, of course) that seem to scream out for study here.

Finally, the one “positive” (is it a positive?) is that while the 28% of manuscripts have a female protagonists, only 30 female writers were involved (10.8%). So there exist nearly three times the number of female “heroes” as there are female writers. At least in this sample.

Let’s play a little game, and assume EVERY female writer was involved with a female protagonist, then 47 (19%) of the 247 manuscripts written by men have female protagonists. If EVERY female author wrote a male character, that means 77 (31%) of 247 manuscripts written by male authors had a female protagonist.

So the upshot of this data is that:

in this particular situation, males wrote female protagonists at a rate of something between 19-31%.

Another way of looking at it is (assuming a linear relationship):

if females write male heroes 50% of the time, males write female heroes 25% of the time.

It would be interesting to know if this, too, has changed over the course of time.

What does it mean? I’ll be the first to say “I dunno.” But I admit I thought is was interesting.

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  1. Ron, you should write the protagonists that feel right to you. Since Jan 2012, I’ve committed to writing only female protagonists. If I look at any number of stories I’ve written, I realize the more interesting story was the female’s story within that story (with an original male protagonist). I feel lucky I’ve been able to publish a few that had the right protagonist for me and the story worked well. I’d like to think I know men – but I do know women. And it goes to that old saying, “Write what you know.” Oh boy if (and I will) finish this book … oh boy oh boy …

  2. Amy … thanks for the comment. Writing the other is always going to be a challenge for writers, no matter what. That’s one of the underlying issues that make the gender and ethnicity based conversations that are flowing through the community so hard to deal with, actually. At the end of the day, I wish we could just focus on making good “art” whatever that is. But that, I admit, is a bit wishful of me. The “system” will always be in flux, and people are people. But, yes, I think we should tell the stories we feel most deeply aligned with–which, fortunately or not, probably tend to come from places we are most familiar with as individuals.

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