It seems like there is no better time than now to talk about Women. As the women’s march is still on the minds of many Americans, so is the future of women in general, as President Trump is taking executive actions regarding women and their healthcare. It seems that women have been come so far with the presence of the Obama’s in the whitehouse and many would consider this time to be a step back from where the country was going. However, places such as the film and television industry have been an ever-present rollercoaster of inconsistent privileges, and unfair prejudices among the women of the film industry.
The discrepancy lies in the fact that women are hardly present in the overall industry, and this is not because of lack of talent or disinterest in film. Studies from the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television found in 2015, women accounted for 51 percent of moviegoers. In that same year 22 percent of protagonist were female and 34 percent were major characters. This is an increase from years before, however diversity in women’s roles is still at a standstill.
Over half of these roles were played by white women and only 16 percent of the roles were played by black women and even less than that for Latinos, Asians, and others. So why is it like this? The simple answer is that there are too many men in the film industry that don’t trust women to be put into the various roles of film, whether that’s acting, directing, producing, etc.
Another issue is that there are male actors who refuse to be directed by women. From the years 2009 to 2014 only 6.4 percent of films released by major studios were directed by women. Only 4 women have been nominated for the Oscar for best director and only one has won (Kathryn Bigelow). The prejudice that lies within the film community is that women can’t do film while they have families, because the assumption is one would take precedence over the other. Filming is an expensive industry and women don’t have the same power as men have in the world to create money for the film. These along with many other unfair stereotypes are what keep women away from the camera.
Another major issue when it comes to women in film is the age gap. In general women are expected to be younger or younger looking than males. Majority of females are between the ages of 20 and 30 while their male counterparts are between the ages of 30 and 40. Males over the age of 40 comprise over half of the film industry while women over 40 sits at 34 percent. The percentage of males characters over 50 is almost double the amount of female characters over 50.
In a recent interview with BUILD, Viola Davis, a successful black women in film and television, talks about being expectation of “sexiness” of women on TV. She talks about seeing herself on television, and not seeing the same stereotypical sexiness of a glossed over woman on the cover of a magazine. She asks the question of what sexiness is and why she can’t, as a women over size 2 and over the age of 50 cannot be considered sexy? She says that “We have 350 million people in this country. I refuse to believe that every women out there who’s sexualized is a size two to a double zero, and under the age of 30.”
Viola Davis is an example of a woman in the industry that refuses to succumb to stereotypes. However, the number of women like Davis is still low. Women’s privilege in the film industry is gradually becoming less discriminatory but there is still a long way to go. Women are a vital part of the film industry and often don’t get the recognition they deserve, and it’s important that we address this problem both on, and behind the screen.