In this month’s edition of The Hollywood Reporter, writer Gregg Kilday wrote about the coming award season, and a strange phenomenon happening among experts attempting to predict who will be nominated for Academy Awards. He noted, “handicappers have been scratching their heads trying to figure out which actresses could be drafted to fill out the best actress category.”
Kilday points out that this year, there were so many strong performances in roles written for men, some insiders suggested expanding the best actor category from five to 10. Meanwhile, in modern Hollywood “actresses appear mostly in supportive roles as wives, girlfriends and mothers,” he writes.
This year, the issue was so notable that it’s been hard to predict who would even be featured in the category of Best Actress. (Though Kilday and several others suggested Reese Witherspoon, Jenny Slate and Julianne Moore would be among the frontrunners.)
In her own column, Washington Post pop culture writer Alyssa Rosenberg wrote, “When Gregg Kilday wrote in the Hollywood Reporter last week that it might be hard for the Academy Awards to fill the five slots for Best Actress nominations, I admit I was skeptical.” But, she went on to say that after “going back through the list of films that were released this year, or which will arrive in movie theaters before the end of December, the cut-off for Academy Award contention, I started to think he might have a point.”
Her piece concludes with this line: “Intelligent moviegoers cannot live on a handful of great stories about women a year.”
At Elle magazine’s Women in Hollywood ceremony last month, actress Jennifer Garner delivered a speech further underscoring the problem. She told the audience,
“The fact that there even needs to be a Women in Hollywood event is a little bit sad. I mean, the men in Hollywood event is every day—it’s called Hollywood. Fifty-one percent of the population should not have to have to schedule a special event to celebrate the fact that in an art that tells the story of what it means to be human and alive, we get to play a part.”
The Oscar season debate and Garner’s recent comments highlight an issue that has long plagued Hollywood: systematic gender inequality. Here’s a look at the numbers:
Women Make Up Just 23% of Independent Film Directors.
According to the “Independent Women” report, across the board, women account for only about a quarter of behind-the-scenes jobs (editors, writers, producers, cinematographers) in indie movies.
(Source: Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University)
In 2013, the World’s Highest-Paid Female Movie Star Made About the Same Amount as Two of the Lower-Paid Male Stars.
Angelina Jolie, the highest-paid actress, made $33 million. Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson made roughly the same amount, which put them at the bottom of the list of highest-paid male actors. By comparison, Robert Downey Jr. made $75 million.
(Source: Women’s Media Center)
Actresses are Far More Commonly Shown in States of Undress Than Actors.
This infograph shows how much more women are depicted in sexually suggestive ways on screen than men, including this startling finding: “Roughly a third of female speaking characters are shown in sexually revealing attire or are partially naked.”
(Source: New York Film Academy)
From 2009-2013, Less Than 5% of Major Studio Films Were Directed by Women.
In that time period, only one woman, Anne Fletcher, directed two studio features (The Proposal and The Guilt Trip).
(Source: Women and Hollywood)
Out of 169 Movies Released This Year, 78 Failed the Bechdel Test.
The test looks at three factors: 1. Does the film have at least two women in it? 2. Do they speak to each other at some point? and 3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
As of 2013, in Films That Have Won Golden Globes, Women Have Just 32.6% of All Speaking Roles.
This, despite the fact that women purchase half of all movie tickets sold.
Only One Woman Has Ever Won an Academy Award for Best Director.
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2009) is one of only four women ever nominated in the category in the 86 years of the awards.
Though the issue of gender bias has existed in Hollywood for decades, it is a problem that average consumers can help offer a solution to. At the end of the day, Hollywood is running a business, and studio executives make decisions largely based on revenue projections. When you go see movies that prominently feature a female star, depict women in diverse ways and are created by talented women directors, writers and producers, you’re not only affecting the bottom line—you’re sending a message about the kinds of movies you want to see.