Despite Inequality, Women Refuse To Be Frozen Out At Box Office

09 May 2015


The smaller presence of women on the big screen reflects society at large.  Often, women are still relegated to a lesser seat at the big table.  Shocking when you consider author and commentator Anita Finlay’s comments that “Women are driving 60% of ticket sales today, yet it’s still tough to find story lines where we’re not window dressing.  Clearly we’re going out to see “boy movies,” too.  So put some more girls in them!”  The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media shares that women are 51% of the population but only 17% of a movie’s population. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s pretty close to the percentage of women in Congress.  Studies have proven that young girls actually perceive smaller possibilities for themselves owing to their diminished visibility in family programming, for example.  Oscar-winner Geena Davis strives to make producers hear the message. Davis’ motto is “If she can see it, she can be it.”

In 2014, only 12% of film leads were woman. Yet the CEO of the American Association of Theatre Owners is calling 2015 the year of the woman, perhaps owing to the box office success of recent movies driven by women like Malificent, Divergent, 50 Shades and Cinderella.  Despite his positive prognostications, author and commentator Shawna Vercher shared the eye-popping information (watch the video if you don’t believe us) that a studio head just used “Supergirl,” a 30-year old flop, to prove that women should be seen (maybe) but not heard (at all) — at least when it comes to having their names atop the marquis.

Associations Now shared another shocking tidbit:

…[M]any films fail the Bechdel Test, a basic test to see if films have (1) at least two women in the film that (2) talk about something other than a man.  Recent hit films like 22 Jump Street, American Sniper, and The Grand Budapest Hotel have failed this test.

Women have fascinating stories to tell.  The good news is sisters are doing it for themselves. Meryl Streep is funding a screenwriters lab for women over 40.  Women directors/producers/writers/actors like Amy Schumer, Brit Marling and Ava DuVernay are carving out their own niche in an industry where men and women graduate from film school at the same rate, get the same number of awards at festivals, yet as Finlay comments, “it’s the guys who get invited to direct big movies by big studios.”  To change this  paradigm, Geena Davis has launched the Arkansas Film Festival, focused on women and diversity — the winning films will get a theatrical release, something heretofore unheard of.

Challenging the status quo is good for business, apparently. As Ms. Davis points out:

“It’s very important to educate the next generation of content creators before they even start their professional careers,” she said. “Once it’s brought to (filmmakers’) attention, once they hear the numbers, they’re just stunned and horrified… how much gender bias there is and lack of diversity.”

What kind of earthquake will it take to shift the staid thinking of studio bosses?  Watch our latest episode of Dare We Say and join the conversation!


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