Gender Inequality in Film

Yes, there are movies made with a female in the lead. But has Oscar ever heard of them?

This year’s Best Picture nominees are as follows: a story about a man who goes to war and loves it; a man on Broadway as actor\director\schizophrenic; a little boy growing up to be a man; a man running a crazy hotel; a brilliant gay man; a brilliant black man; a brilliant man with a degenerative disease; a devoted male student and his sadistic male teacher.

So, a big time sausage fest. These are the stories of men. Felicity Jones, Emma Stone, and Keira Knightly are all nominated for their roles as pretty accessories. None are real players in their films; they are passive actors in someone else’s story. Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night are all the driving forces in movies told from their (female) points of view, and none of those movies earned best picture nods.

2014’s highest grossing movies include:

1. Transfomers: Age of Extinction

2. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ARmies

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

4. Maleficent

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 1

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

10. Interstellar

Women fare a little better here – females take the lead in 2 of the 10, which, in case your math is  weak, is exactly 20% of the top-earners and 0% of the most lauded. And women, in case you haven’t looked around in a while, make up a good 50% of the population. Does that make any sense to you? Only 12% of protagonists were female in 2014 movies, which is down 3% from the previous year. THAT’S THE WRONG WAY, PEOPLE!

a0e86469192b5ac4b68c392aa7ee39b1Yes – you’re reading that right. Only 9% of directors are female. Only 4 women have ever been nominated as Best Director, and of them only Kathryn Bigelow has won (for The Hurt Locker – a movie with basically no women in it). It would seem that to be taken seriously, a woman has to direct a masculine film; Angelina Jolie made war movie Unbroken this year, and Ava DuVernay tackled the most iconic man in American history with Selma. Both were locked out of the Best Director category but Selma scored 2 men nominations for Best Song while Unbroken garnered 3 nominations spread among 5 men and 1 lone woman (Becky Sullivan, for sound editing – we salute you!).

In 73 years of Academy history, only 8 women have won best adapted screenplay, and only 8 have won best original screenplay. In 85 years, only 7 women have taken home Best Picture Oscars as producers, and all of them were co-producers with men.

77% of Academy voters are male. Another big surprise: the average winner in a female acting category is 36 years old compared to 44 for men.

The top 10 highest-paid actresses made $181 million in 2013 while the men made more than twice that – $465M!

The worst part is that the stats are worse when it comes to movies made for kids – in top-grossing G-rated family films, there is almost a 3:1 ratio of male characters to female characters. And how many of those are industrious go-getters? What are we telling our daughters, or for that matter, our sons? And what does it say about us as a society that animated female characters tend to show more skin than male ones – even the little girls – and are portrayed with tiny little waists and sexy features. Even the non-human females are sexualized in children’s cartoons!

In G-rated family films, speaking parts are 70% male. Characters with jobs are 80% male.

In 2012, Pixar released Brave, its first movie (out of 13) with a female protagonist. While Merida provides a positive female role model to its young audience, behind the scenes things were a little less progressive. Brenda Chapman, who spent 6 years working on the film, was stripped of her directorial duties and for the 13th time in a row, a Pixar movie was helmed by a man.

Check out the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to find out more.




4 thoughts on “Gender Inequality in Film

  1. aramblingcollective

    I have explained The Bechdel Test so many times to people, who are usually unaware or amazed of such inequalities. Then the gentle discussion touching on equality follows. There’s a expectation that female-driven film has to always be exceptional to Justify the ‘positive discrimination’. I say that not all films made by men are any good, so why would every film made by a woman have to be good?



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