Computer science researchers at the University of Washington analyzed 700 modern movie screenplays using natural language processing and published a dataset of their findings about the power and agency of movies’ male and female characters. The dataset consists of connotation frames which measure the implications of verbs on a character. For example, a character that “demands” something is considered more powerful than a character who “implores” something, which would be more submissive, and a character who “gives” something would have more agency than a character who “accepts” something, which would be more passive. The researchers’ analysis shows that after controlling for various factors, male characters tend to demonstrate more power and agency than female characters in every genre, even in movies with female writers and casting directors.
Measuring the Power and Agency of Movie Characters
Joshua New is a policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation. He has a background in government affairs, policy, and communication. Prior to joining the Center for Data Innovation, Joshua graduated from American University with degrees in C.L.E.G. (Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government) and Public Communication. His research focuses on methods of promoting innovative and emerging technologies as a means of improving the economy and quality of life. Follow Joshua on Twitter @Josh_A_New.
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