By Amy Gonzales
Throughout cinematic history, women have been portrayed as “damsels in distress” or “princesses.” As a child, my favorite Disney princess was Snow White. I grew up admiring these Disney princesses (as I’m sure many of us women have) only to be a bit disappointed in the concept of women needing to be “rescued” or “taken care of” by a prince charming. Recently, I found myself at a crossroads (with Disney in particular) and wanting to step away from anything that has to do with the term “princess.” As animated movies have progressed with characters such as Moana or Brave, diversity is still lacking. This lack of diversification is not just with Disney characters, but in the REAL WORLD too.
The Reality of Film: Where Are The Women?
We hear names like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and James Cameron tossed around on these awards shows. We know their stories and their whole cinematic history, yet the sad part is, the only female directors/producers I can think of are Patty Jenkins (director of Wonder Woman), Sofia Coppola (daughter of legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola), Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay.
Why We Need More Females In Film
Ava DuVernay is not only a director, but a writer, producer and independent film distributor. She has won numerous awards for her works such as Selma and was nominated for an Oscar for her criminal justice documentary 13TH. After directing Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, she became the highest grossing black woman filmmaker in American cinema history (yassss queen!).
DuVernay continues to emphasize the importance of inviting women into spaces that they have otherwise not been invited. – Vanity Fair
Male directors have complained about her only recruiting female directors for her show Queen Sugar and said that she was “discriminating.” She goes on to say that all of the top jobs on her show continue to be filled by women and adds “complaints be damned” to whowever doesn’t like what she is doing. Duvernay makes note in this video how she is not a fan of the word diversity, but instead uses the word inclusion.
Here are a few 2017 statistics from Women and Hollywood that will make you rethink how women are represented in film.
1. Women account for 50% of moviegoers (MPAA 2017).
2. According to Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film the top 100 grossing films of 2017, women represented:
- 8% of directors
- 10% of writers
- 2% of cinematographers
- 24% of producers
- 14% of editors
3. On the top 250 grossing films of 2017, women comprised 3% of composers. This represents no change since 2016 (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film).
4. Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director. Only five women have ever been nominated: Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Bigelow, and Greta Gerwig (Women and Hollywood).
5. In 2018 “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for the Academy Award for Cinematography (Women and Hollywood).
6. Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film notes how in the top 100 films of 2017:
- Females comprised 24% of protagonists
- 63% of female characters had an identifiable job or occupation (compared to 78% of male characters)
- 55% of female characters were seen in their work setting, actually working (versus 69% of males)
7. Sixty-eight percent of all female characters were white in the top 100 films of 2017. 16% were Black, 7% were Asian, 7% were Latina, and 2% were of another race or ethnicity (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film).
8. On the top 500 films of 2017, movies with at least one female director employed greater percentages of women writers, editors, cinematographers, and composers than films with exclusively male directors. (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film)
9. UCLA believes that diversity sells:
- Films with diverse casts enjoy the highest median global box office and the highest median return on investment
- Broadcast scripted shows featuring diverse casts net the highest median 18-49 ratings
10. Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film states that during the 2016-2017 broadcast network TV season:
- Women accounted for only 28% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography working on broadcast network, cable, and streaming programs
- 97% of programs had no women directors of photography, 85% had no women directors, 75% had no women editors, 74% had no women creators, 67% had no women writers, 23% had no women producers, 20% had no women executive producers
- 66% of female characters were white. 19% were Black, 5% were Latina, 6% were Asian, and 1% were of another race or ethnicity.
- On programs with at least one woman creator, females accounted for 51% of major characters
- On programs with exclusively male creators, females comprised 38% of major characters
- Directed 27.5% of independent narrative competition movies at Sundance from 2007 to 2017
- Accounted for 22.2% of first-time episodic TV directors from the 2009-10 season to the 2016-17 season
- Accounted for 17% of episodic TV directors from the 2012-13 season to 2016-17 season
- Represented 4% of the top-grossing films directors from 2007-2017
After reading about Ava’s story and how she is standing up to male directors, I wasn’t surprised by these stats. Even from the time I was a child until now, I would rarely see little to no representation for women of color in movies and it would (and still does) bother me. It is important to be proactive rather than reactive in a time when the US is in turmoil and tensions are high. People turn to film and entertainment for an escape from reality, but how can one do that when they do not feel represented or empowered?
My advice? Surround yourself with people that represent or empower you, do not let the media depict what or how you should act. We need more women like Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes, who are making strides in this industry. I would love to tear down (physically and literally) the male dominated film patriarchy, but the film industry STILL has much work to do. This is in no way meant to disrespect the brilliant male directors we all know and love, but it’s time to highlight our women in the film industry.
What are your thoughts on women in film? Are there any females in films that have inspired or empowered you? What do you like or dislike about how women are represented in film? Share your thoughts with us!