On Screen: Women in Leadership
A Case Study on Fictional Female Leaders Movies & Series

On Screen: Women in Leadership

A Case Study on Fictional Female Leaders

A Case Study on Fictional Female Leaders

It's no secret that substantive representation of women – both in terms of quality and quantity – has been an uphill climb in Hollywood. However, with compelling and powerful roles for women expanding, we decided to take a closer look at how audiences respond to female leadership as portrayed in modern movies and TV series.

The Study

Using our Lumiere platform, we tested several scenes featuring eight fictional female heads of state with 150 viewers.

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The Women

  • Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Game of Thrones

  • President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), Veep

  • Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), Black Panther

  • President Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), House of Cards

  • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), The Iron Lady

  • Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), The Crown

  • President Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), Scandal

  • President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), 24

Here are some of the things we found...

Strength & Inspiration are a Potent Combination

Some of the most highly-rated leaders display expert diplomacy, by showing strength while also inspiring those who follow them. Daenerys Targaryen and Margaret Thatcher in particular exemplify this combination.

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Intelligence & Humor Can Help Create A Following

A viewer favorite in our study was Black Panther’s Shuri, who doesn’t function as a traditional head-of-state but nonetheless leads effectively with ingenuity, creativity, and humor. She’s particularly quick with a witty response to anyone confused by her technological expertise,and this resonated well with audiences.

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Queen Elizabeth II Has Unique Appeal to Women Viewers

While men in our study showed a stronger preference for women as US presidents, women viewers showed a disproportionate affinity for The Crown’s Queen Elizabeth. There are a range of possible reasons for this:her uniquely compelling portrayal by actress Clare Foley, the incredible depth and nuance of her depiction in The Crown, the fact that she is a real person and therefore seems more aspirational to real women. Whatever the reason, The Crown’s Queen Elizabeth II has a notably strongerhold on the hearts of her female audience.

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Women Are A Bit More Discerning About Accurate Portrayals of Leadership

After watching several scenes focused on these characters, we asked viewers to reflect on how accurate these portrayals seemed, compared to real world women leaders. While a majority of men (56%) said these portrayals felt “very accurate,” only a minority of women (41%) felt the same way. Open-ended responses suggest women were more aware of the actual barriers their fictional counterparts would likely face and felt some of these depictions did not always fully capture those barriers authentically.

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Want to know more about how viewers responded to the content in this study? Or what they might have to say about your content? Reach out to us

More Case Studies

Want to know even more about what audiences found compelling in these clips? Or what they might find particularly engaging in your content? Reach out to us!

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