Faculty Fellow Stacy Smith served as the lead researcher in a report studying the early sexualization of teen girls. Smith and her team analyzed the top 100 grossing films of 2008 to find correlations about the attitudes of teenagers to their older peers and the perception of women in film. USA Today featured an article on Smith’s work, and can be read below.

Film study: Men talk and women show skin

by Nanci Hellmich

stacy_smith.jpgWhen it comes to movie roles, women tend to be seen and not heard.

An analysis of the 100 top-grossing movies of 2008 shows that men had 67% of the speaking roles; women had about half that, 33%.

Men also were far more likely to work behind the camera. For every five male directors, writers or producers, there was one female.

At the same time, female characters were more likely to wear sexy, provocative clothing than men (26% vs. 5%) or to appear partially naked (24% vs. 8%).

The sexualization of teen girls in the movies was the most troubling finding to the researchers at Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Female teenage characters were more likely to wear sexy, provocative clothing (40%) than other women — even more than those age 21 to 39 (32%). And the teen girls were as likely to appear partially naked as the older women (30%).

Lead researcher Stacy Smith, a communication professor of entertainment at USC, says “the data speaks to an overemphasis on beauty, thinness and sexualization of women at younger and younger ages.”

The study, to be released today, also found that 29% of teen girls were called attractive by another person in the movie vs. 18% of women ages 21 to 39 and 8% of women 40 to 64.

Marc Choueiti, the project administrator, says this sends a message to teen girls that they are “eye candy,” which could affect the body image of some young female viewers.

For the study, researchers analyzed 4,370 speaking parts in the top 100 films from 2008, including The Dark Knight,Iron Man and Twilight.

“Women represent roughly half of the U.S. population and buy roughly half of the movie tickets, but they still represent only a third of the speaking roles in film,” Smith says. “Females are missing in action when it comes to speaking roles.”

Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, a University of Missouri researcher who studies the media’s influence on young people and was not involved in this study, says the sexualization of girls is rampant in films, television, music videos and the marketing of clothing to children.

“This is sending a powerful message that it’s important for girls and young women to be sexual objects from a very early age,” she says.

To read the original article, visit USA Today.

To find out more about Smith and her project, download a copy of Sexy Socialization: Today’s media and the next generation of women PDF.