Visualizing Gender Representation in Malaysian Cinema in the 21st Century

By Naelah Nordin

I like watching movies and as I grew older, I find myself drawn to female-centric movies or movies with a majority female cast because I felt represented and they told stories that I related to. The more I learn about representation in media, the more I understand how important it is in cultivating the social culture and influencing how stereotypes are enforced. It also made me wonder of where does Malaysia stand in terms of gender representation and how has the Malaysian film scene progressed in the past 20 years?

In this project, female-majority movies are represented by yellow bubbles and is defined by the female-to-male ratio of the first seven cast credited being more than 50%, and vice-versa for male-majority movies, they are represented by red bubbles and defined by the male-to-female ratio of the first seven cast credited being 50% and more.

If you ever want to find out more about a movie, just hover over it and a tooltip should appear.

(Data was taken from FINAS & Wikipedia)

Are some genres more dominated by one gender or the other?

In this section, movies are clustered based on their genre. There are 16 genres altogether. We can see that female-majority movies do not dominate any particular genre. However, they are more prominent in Romance, Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Drama and Thriller. Other genres are dominated by male-majority movies but have a significantly lower number of movies in comparison. Here, we have clustered the majors based on the broader category, of which there are 16 in total. The size of the bubbles represent the median salary of graduates from the major. When sorted like this, it's quite clear that engineering majors of all kinds have generally above-average median salaries.

On the other end, it appears that majors in the field of psychology on average have the lowest graduate salaries.

Which gender performs better in the box office?

Box office sales is a significant indicator of the success of a movie. The size of the bubble represents the scale of its number as noted above. The amount has been adjusted to inflation based on Malaysia's annual Consumer Price Index (CPI).

We can see that male-majorit movies giants over female-majority movies. Not only that, they also get more box office sales.

How is the distribution of female-majority movies throughout the years?

If we rearrange all the data points based on the year they were released, we can see a significant increase in movies produced starting 2010. However, the number of female-majority movies seem to be stagnant throughout despite the increase in movies produced.

The movies are also sorted by date of release from bottom-to-top, so we can see a pattern of high-grossing movies being released by the end of the year.

Do female-majority movies perform better in box-office sales given a bigger budget?

This scatterplot of budget against box office sales explores the correlation between the two and can give an idea of how female-majority is accepted by the masses (box office sales) in relation to the support given (budget)

A line of best fit is calculated and plotted to show the trend in both genders. An interesting pattern emerges where we see that while male-majority performs higher given a smaller budget, the trend shows that female-majority movies have a steeper trend thus performing better given more budget.

Note: Some movies do not have record of their budget as FINAS did not release the budget of movies for certain years

Zooming into a smaller range of budget and box office sales, we can see that female-majority movies are closer to their trend line compared to male-majority movies that is more scattered thus has a lower trend line

Female-majority movies also generally do not start on a high budget but those that do performs better than male-majority movies. This implies that female-majority movies have a higher chance of performing well in the box office if given a higher budget.

The End

In conclusion, male-majority movies dominate the Malaysian film scene but do not necessarily perform better than female-majority movies in correlation with the budget received. I hope to see more quality movies produced in Malaysia with a more diverse set of genres beyond rempit and horror as those are notably well-received. I hope the film industry gives more opportunities for movies with female narratives and a female-majority cast for better gender representation.

Recommended Future Work

Analyzing the gender distribution in the cast is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more accurate ways to determine gender representation in movies which includes analyzing the script and determining the amout of screentime the female characters receive, or analyze the number of lines that they say in comparison to their male counterparts. A step further than that is to analyze the subject of their lines and determine if the movie passes the bechdel test which is a common rubric in measuring female inclusivity in a movie.

Apart from gender representation, racial and ethnic representation in Malaysian movies is also an interesting subject to explore and analyze how far we have progressed in including racial representation considering we are a multi-racial country.


Github repository available here
Inspired by Kontinentalist's visualization post on Asian representation in American movies
Scrollable template forked by Cuthchow's project visualizing collge majors hosted here
Based on Cuthchow's Medium post detailing his process