The latest round of “Star Wars” canon films have only further bolstered the franchise’s interest in creating compelling, singular female characters, from the continued legacy of Leia and Padme to new stars like Rey, Rose, and Captain Phasma, and a new study makes a case for the connection between female-led screen time and box office take. Author, film lecturer, and founder of the Glasgow Feminist Arts Fest Becca Harrison recently undertook a labor intensive process to figure out which “Star Wars” canon films (not including the just-released “Solo: A Star Wars Story”) include the most screen time for their female characters.
Harrison posted her initial tally on Twitter, where she revealed the that top three films to feature the most female screen time include “The Last Jedi,” “The Force Awakens,” and “Rogue One,” all female-centric stories that put women at the fore. Those films also happen to be the highest-earning of all the films. Take a look at Harrison’s breakdown below:
I have FINALLY ranked all of #StarWars based on screen time for women. This is now canon. Don't @ me.
43% Last Jedi
37% Force Awakens
35% Rogue One
23% Return of the Jedi
22% Empire Strikes Back
20% Phantom Menace
18% Attack of the Clones
17% Revenge of the Sith
15% A New Hope
— Becca Harrison (@BeccaEHarrison) May 28, 2018
Based on unadjusted box office numbers, via BoxOfficeMojo, the top three films on Harrison’s list — incidentally, the most recent films, save “Solo” — are all the biggest earners of the franchise so far, with “The Force Awakens” topping out with a near-$1B overall take. It’s no secret that women-led movies make more at the box office, as it’s a stat that’s been reported consistently for years.
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When we recently spoke with actress and activist Geena Davis, she pointed out that her own Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which was created with the express aim to “champion women and diversity in film,” had recently wrapped a study of the 100 top films from 2017 and found that films starring a female character made 38% more at the box office than films starring a male character. That such metrics would carry over to a franchise as popular and enduring as “Star Wars” is not shocking in the least.
“It’s been higher for all of the years that we’ve studied it [since 2015], but now 2017 is just astronomically higher,” Davis said. “We researched the same thing for diversity and found that films with more diversity in the cast make more money. It obviously makes sense, our country is just 51% female and 38% people of color, so what’s the deal?”
Head over to Harrison’s site, Writing on Reels, to see more information on her process and methodology, including notes on how she designed on tricky bits involving droids and aliens, plus her observations about how actually meaningful some of those female-centric scenes are and what’s next. As she notes, “My hope is that by telling you the odds of women being onscreen in ‘Star Wars,’ we can keep having useful conversations about identity and representation in the franchise.”