Via reader AS, Newsweek's Julia Baird on the dearth of female characters in "family" films:
It was startling to discover that a new study has found that there is only one female character to every three male characters in family movies. Even creepier is the fact that many of the female characters are scantily clad, and hot (the Little Mermaid wasn’t always depicted popping out of a tiny bikini top).
This study, undertaken by Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, analyzed 122 family films (rated G, PG, and PG-13), including 50 top-grossing ones, between 2006 and 2009 and found that only 29.2 percent of characters were female. And one in four female characters was depicted in “sexy, tight, or alluring attire,” compared with one in 25 male characters. The female characters were also more likely than men to be beautiful, and one in five were “portrayed with some exposed skin between the mid-chest and upper thigh regions.” Because you wouldn’t want to take on the world without baring your midriff—girl power!
I'd also like to see a study of the MPAA ratings board, perhaps to understand why films with strong central female characters seem to earn R ratings more than PG-13. Possibly the MPAA are a bunch of old men? Or teenage boys? Is there any way to tell, really?