The San Diego State University's centre for the study of women in television and film recently published a report on the representations of women on screen from the top 100 movies of 2013. The report offers a damning appraisal of the status of female characters on screen, with the most poignant piece of data received from the study by Martha Lauzen PhD being that only 13% of the top 100 movies featured an equal amount of major female and male characters.

Having looked over the study it would seem that movies can maintain some of the perceptions within society that define how gender roles are illustrated on our screens. Male characters were identified as maintaining a desire to succeed within a working environment rather than a successful personal life with the balance being split between 75% vs 25% of male characters looking to succeed within a professional environment. Females by contrast were portrayed in this ratio as being split by 48% vs 52%. This seemingly points toward a sad status quo in the world of cinematic fiction where women seek emotional fulfilment via their family lives, while men are portrayed as being motivated to pursue the supposed gravitas of success within a working environment or perhaps even seeking to change that profession for the greater good.

This trend is also supported by the data when the report suggests that while 17% of the characters on screen were leaders, the split is prevalent again when it illustrates the fact that a larger percentage of male characters were portrayed as leaders while the number was less so for their female counterparts (21% of men only 8% of women). The report itself is fascinating while also distinctly unnerving. Not only is it an indictment of a supposedly modern world but it also points toward a lack of audience awareness and the simplistic narrative integrity on the part of storytellers within the entertainment industry.

When you look at the Oscars ceremony last month, we saw Cate Blanchett win the statuette for Best Actress with one of the greatest performances from the last year for her performance in Blue Jasmine (2013). If you dig down into that performance it is quite unique because the character herself is morally ambiguous and complex, however despite the brilliance of Blanchetts' acting, narratively it does stick to playbook stated in Martha Lauzen's report in that the character of Jasmine is defined by her personal life and is attached to material objects that have been provided by a male character. Compare this to Matthew McConaughey's role in Dallas Buyers Club (for which he won the Oscar): his character is morally repugnant at the beginning of the narrative, but he is redeemed by taking on the US medical world and law enforcement authorities while also changing his personal life. The latter is defined by the main protagonist's working and personal life while Blanchett's role is primarily defined by her own personal ambiguities. While I am not suggesting that there is any gender omnipotence on the part of either movie developers, it does perhaps offer a popular illustration of the points made within Martha Lauzen's report.

On a narrative level I would also suggest that the findings of the report suggest that archetypes are still popular with writers even within the context of modern awareness and perceptions of gender equality. As a male I am acutely aware that I am defined as much by my own personal life and emotional fulfilment as much as I am by my professional desire and ambitions. The women I know are as driven to succeed in their working life as much as any male is. Therefore on a creative and narrative level to me it is simply not plausible to seek to maintain gender archetypes that betray the central human truths of the men or women within that narrative structure. It is perhaps time to start to challenge these portrayals, while also enjoying their context within the specificity of any script. Is it believable to portray women as maternal, sensual godmothers who might just want to succeed or change society or their workplace while portraying men as heroic figures who have no perception of the paternal and emotional intimacy that relationships, sex and love bring to human existence? Frankly the answer is no, and nor are these tropes specific to heterosexual or homosexual men and women.

While the integrity of a script should never be part of positive discrimination toward women. I would be interested to know why I am always surprised when I see a portrayal of a female on screen that embraces the individualistic complexity of females. when both sexes are as complex and beautifully unique as one another. Women are slighted on screen in this regard. As society moves toward a distinctly secular definition, it is popular culture and fiction in which our emotional and spiritual sides are stimulated and both male and female characters are inspirational, from the big budget spectaculars of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games trilogy to the success of a male protagonist in Iron Man 3 (2013). There is clearly room enough for both male and female characters who capture the imagination.

The talent is also there in mainstream cinema and television with the likes of Amy Adams, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain (pictured above), Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep available to work. They (and their peers) should be headlining movies far more than they do. There is also room for older women on screen as much as there is for younger women. When you step out on the street is every woman really aged between 23 and 40 as they are on screen? No, again the division here is outrageous. Audiences will pay good money to see a female lead who is as deftly unique as their male opposites.

I hope that in years to come the narrative structure of motion pictures will embrace the subjective nature of our existence for both sexes, with future studies like this illustrating how far the industry has come. If it does, who knows how many great stories about women have yet to be told? If it doesn't then sadly we will never know.