Industry Lip Service to Equality Pales in Comparison to Actual Ratios
“Nobody knows a woman like a woman. We should get to write, direct and produce for ourselves more than we apparently do. Where do I sign up to help make a change?” -Cheryl McKay
by Two Handed Warriors Editors
A recent study by USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism reveals the tremendous odds Kathryn Bigelow overcame to become the first woman to win the 2010 Oscar for Best Director (The Hurt Locker).
USC researchers focused on the 100 top box office hits of 2008, evaluating the 4,370 speaking characters and 1,227 above-the-line personnel in these films. The study revealed that, despite Hollywood lip service to the contrary, the industry is still characterized by staggering gender inequality. In the 5,000 most influential roles of 2008, men outnumbered women nearly five-to-one.
Onscreen, only 32.8 percent of speaking characters in the top 2008 films were female. Rather than a one-year anomaly, researchers determined that 2008’s two-to-one ratio was actually the “highest percentage of females in film we have witnessed across multiple studies.”
The situation behind the camera was even worse. Astonishingly, only “8% of directors, 13.6% of writers, and 19.1% of producers are female.” (See chart below).
McKay notes: “Given that both men and women are talented and have a voice in this world, I’d like to see those ratios even out in the film industry.”
Lack of Leadership Leads to Lack of Female Roles and Opportunities
The study also indicated a significant relationship between these two levels of inequality. Lack of female leadership positions behind the screen contributes to the lack of women onscreen (as well as the overt sexualization of those who do appear). Conversely, increased female creative leadership leads to increased female roles. “(T)he percentage of female characters jumps 14.3% when one or more female screenwriters were involved in penning the script.”
The USC Annenberg researchers Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti concluded: “Our findings reveal that motion picture content is sending… consistent and troubling messages… that females are of lesser value than are males. This is evidenced by their on screen presence and the lack of employment opportunities behind-the‐camera.”
McKay Price concludes: “Nobody knows a woman like a woman. We should get to write, direct and produce for ourselves more than we apparently do. Where do I sign up to help make a change?”
2011 Annenberg update: Hollywood Hooked on Sexualizing Teenage Women and Teen Girls