Monday, April 25, 2011

The State of Women in American Film: Not Good

The Jezebel headline was a hand-wringer: "Women Have Fewer Speaking Roles But Show More Skin In Movies."


The Jezebel post went on to quote a recent University of Southern California study of the top 100 movies of 2008. So I zipped on over to the study’s web site to see what they had to say about the state of women in film.

What the researchers had done was to analyze the 4,370 speaking characters in those 100 movies and the 1,227 “above-the-line personnel.”

And what they found was damned depressing:

-- Nearly 33 percent of the speaking parts in movies were female. “Put differently, a ratio of roughly two males to every one female was observed across the 100 top-grossing films.”

-- Only 8 percent of the directors were female. “Films with female directors, writers and producers were associated with a higher number of girls and women on screen than were films with only males in these gate-keeping positions.”

-- Almost 14 percent of the writers were female. “. . . [T]he percentage of female characters jumps to 14.3 percent when one or more female screenwriters were involved in penning the script.”

-- Nineteen percent were female producers. “Behind-the-scenes, the ratio of male to female employment is 4.9 to one,” the authors said. “. . . These findings are surprising given that females comprise over half the U.S. population.”

But wait . . . it gets worse.

“Females continue to be hypersexualized in film, particularly 13- to 20-year-old girls,” the report found.

More females were in various states of undress than males:

-- Nearly 40 percent of young females versus 6.7 percent of males were “wearing sexually revealing attire.”

-- Some 30 percent of females versus some 10 percent of males were partially naked.

-- About 30 percent of the females versus 11 percent of males were “physically attractive.”

“Our findings reveal that motion picture content is sending two consistent and troubling messages to viewers,” the researchers concluded. “The first is that females are of lesser value than are males . . . The second is that females are more likely than males to be valued for their appearance.”

Keep this in mind the next time you’re making the decision about what movie for which you’re going to buy tickets in the theaters. The more films starring women, written and directed by women that succeed, the better.

Women & Hollywood -- the cool web site focused on, cleverly enough, women in Hollywood – has a good list of films that are currently playing and coming to theaters soon, which are female-centric and which had women as writers, producers or directors.
Image credit: Focus Films.

1 comment:

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