The Negative Perception of Female-Led Films

The team looked at the overall IMDb ratings of notable female ensemble films since 2000. Then, they broke down the votes by gender to see if men skew the ratings.

There has historically been a negative perception of female-led films in the film industry, with many people believing that films starring women do not perform as well at the box office as films starring men. This has led to a lack of representation for women in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera.

However, recent years have seen a shift in this perception, with more and more female-led films finding success at the box office and receiving critical acclaim. For example, films like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Black Widow have all been hugely successful commercially and critically, proving that films led by women can be just as popular and profitable as those led by men.

Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done to improve representation for women in the film industry, including increasing the number of women in leadership roles and behind the camera, and ensuring that female characters are written and portrayed in a nuanced and respectful way.

The backlash against "Ghostbusters" film has proved that the internet can be much scarier than ghosts.

Many expected the female-led remake of the 1984 male-led classic would prove to be controversial in certain spheres (ahem, Reddit). But ever since the first trailer for the film dropped earlier this year, a barrage of pointed judgements and hate from superfans of the original film (the most outspoken of which are men) have littered "Ghostbusters'" path with slime.

After its release, the "Ghostbusters" trailer was the most disliked promo in YouTube history. (To put this in perspective, it's up there with the most disliked video overall, Justin Bieber's "Baby" music video, which features the then-16-year-old dance-battling in a bowling alley. It received almost 6 million dislikes.) Male fans on Reddit vowed to skip the film's opening and play the "Ghostbusters" video game instead. One of the leads of the film, Leslie Jones, deleted her Twitter account after receiving an overwhelming amount of racist and sexist tweets. Then they came for the internet ratings.

FiveThirtyEight's Walt Hickey published an analysis of IMDb's user rating skew for television shows. His takeaway was that data shows that across the board, men tend to drag down the ratings of shows aimed at female audiences. The team hypothesized that this trend extends to movies that feature female-dominated casts. To test this theory, The team looked at the overall IMDb ratings of notable female ensemble films* since 2000. Then, they broke down the votes by gender.

In each case, male users rate movies with female leads lower than female users. Even critically acclaimed "The Help," which has the highest overall IMDb score of the group (8.1/10), was given an average rating of 7.9 by male users (161,746 votes) and 8.4 by female users (108,173 votes).

The preliminary rating for "Ghostbusters" is no exception. In fact, out of this group of films, "Ghostbusters" has by far the highest disparity between male and female rankings.

The movie's measly 5.2 (out of 10) IMDb rating is yanked down due to more than 19,000 men who gave it an average of 4.5, while about 6,000 women rated the movie a respectable 8.1. The next-biggest leap between ratings was the "Sex and the City" movie, based on the famous 1990s-era HBO show. It received an overall rating of 5.5, where men gave it an average of 4.7 compared to 6.5 from women.

Perhaps this is just a case of women being more forgiving online and rating all movies generally more favorably than men. However, Hickey in his FiveThirtyEight analysis found that this wasn't the case for the most popular TV shows. He writes, "Women gave their top 100 shows, on average, a 7.8 rating, about the same score they gave the top 100 male-dominated programs, 8.0. Men gave their top 100 an average score of 8.2 but gave the top 100 female-skewed shows a mere 6.9 average ratings." Though all of these top shows are notable, men consistently rate female-oriented work lower.

Though tastes in films vary widely from person to person, ratings systems such as IMDb hold weight in many critics' circles. Whether conscious of it or not, consumer ratings have the ability to influence the public's perception of a film (at least to some extent).

Oscar-worthiness aside, "Ghostbusters" promised to be a film that, armed with its predominantly female cast, would be a significant step toward diversity within the film industry. According to the data, however, it seems as though its critical fate was already determined long before it hit the silver screen.

The negative perception of female-led films is often based on gender stereotypes and biases that have been ingrained in our society for centuries. For example, the belief that men are more bankable stars than women is rooted in the idea that men are more relatable and universal, while women are seen as niche or only appealing to a female audience.

This stereotype has been perpetuated by the film industry itself, which has historically favored male-driven stories and has been slow to embrace female-driven narratives. As a result, women have been underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera, with fewer opportunities for female filmmakers, writers, and actors.

However, recent years have seen a push for more diverse and inclusive storytelling, with more female filmmakers and writers being given opportunities to tell their stories. This has led to a rise in female-led films and TV shows, many of which have been critically acclaimed and commercially successful.

It's important to note that there is no inherent difference in the quality or appeal of films based on the gender of their lead characters. Rather, the success of a film depends on factors such as the quality of the storytelling, the marketing strategy, and the cultural context in which the film is released. By breaking down gender stereotypes and biases, we can create a more inclusive and equitable film industry that allows for a wider range of stories and perspectives to be told.


Movies & Movie Reviews: The Negative Perception of Female-Led Films