Gender bias . . . across the galaxy

In TV and movies men talk more than women, and women talk mostly about men. Hence the Bechdel test. But I thought I’d do a dataviz for this phenomenon using Ben Schmidt’s implementation of Bookworm. His data scraper uses the Open Subtitles database of closed captioned subtitles for hundreds of TV shows. While it can’t measure who’s talking it can measure who’s being talked about. Not surprisingly, the pronoun “he” is substantially more common than “she” for all TV shows. The only exception is 1951 (at the far left), where the sample is small a skewed by a few episodes of “I Love Lucy.”

All TV

As you might expect, shows about women feature “she” more often, although even “Gilmore Girls” has a lot of “he.” But compare that to the dominance of “he” in a testosterone-fueled drama like “24”

Gilmore Grils24

But how about Star Trek as a controlled experiment? The Star Trek spin-off “Voyager” featured Kate Mulgrew as Capt. Kathryn Janeway, in contrast to the male commanders on “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” Again, no big surprise: more “she” with a woman in charge, although in only a few episodes does “she” actually exceed “he.”

Star Trek Voyager

Star Trek TNG


chart (2)In an upcoming post, I’ll grab the raw data and post some “he/she” ratios, but this was too much fun not to share.


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