June 19, 2013
Where Are the Women Directors?
Posted on Jan 25, 2012
“If writing is gender-neutral,” she asks, “why do I read so many screenplays by women that are character pieces and so many by men where there’s an explosion on the first page?
“What nobody in Hollywood is allowed to say out loud,” she adds, “is that the subject matter that interests many women isn’t going to sell tickets to a mainstream audience. How many women want to direct ‘Fast Five?’ How many women want to direct ‘Captain America?’ ”
Again, this begs the chicken-or-egg question. Are “Fast Five” and “Captain America” popular because they’re action movies that get big budgets and big marketing pushes, or because that’s what’s greenlighted by the studio heads?
Lauzen’s latest findings come on the heels of a 2011 study from the USC Annenberg School of Communication that reported that, in the top 100 box office films of 2009, men outnumbered women on screen by a ratio of 2:1.
That’s the broad-stroke data. The fine-grain data, USC professor Stacy Smith told the Los Angeles Times in November, is that in movies directed by women in 2009, there was near gender parity: 48 percent of the characters in female-directed films were women. In movies directed by men, fewer than 33 percent of the characters were female. The mirror that Hollywood holds up to the culture reflects back a distorted image.
“There’s a lot of myths in Hollywood. Which is why we need hard data,” says Madeline Di Nonno, executive director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which supported the USC study.
Di Nonno thinks that not only is Hollywood missing the opportunity to sell more tickets to women, but that the gender disparity results in fewer professional opportunities for women both behind and in front of the camera.
“We’ve come a long way from the days when female audience members had to root against the weak, silly love interest who held the male hero back,” says Stephanie Coontz, historian and author of “Marriage: A History” and “The Way We Never Were.”
“Now we have real kick-ass females, but too often their behavior and attitudes reflect male fantasies,” she says. “The decline in the number of female directors is a particular problem. With two men to every woman on screen and 95 men to every woman directing their interactions, Hollywood’s portrayal of male-female relationships and women’s interior life is badly skewed.”
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