By: Nicole Capo
Katniss Everdeen, Maleficent, Hazel Grace Lancaster, Tammy, and Lucy are just a handful of the interesting female figures you can find on the silver screen this year. But don’t be fooled, Americans — a handful of women in leading roles does not a fair representation make.
According to a report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 23% of the films distributed internationally between 2010 and 2013 featured female protagonists, and only 31% of the speaking characters were women. These inequalities exist in the studios as well, as women only directed 8% of the 120 films studied. And these numbers correlate to each other — films with female directors were 6.8% more likely to include more women on-screen, and those with a female writer had a 7.5% higher chance of including women in the cast at all.
The report also pointed out that women’s accomplishments on film tended to play second fiddle to their looks. Appearance comments were directed towards women five times more than they were directed towards men, and they were over two times more likely to be shown in skimpy clothing or fully nude.
Movies aren’t the only cultural arena where the gender gap exists, either. The long list for the National Book Awards was announced this year, and many were dismayed to find that, of the 10 writers selected as nominees, only one was a woman. VIDA, an organization that tracks the inclusion of women in the literary arts and annually scores media outlets and publishers on their male-to-female ratio, determined that, for 2013, most of the organizations studied have a long way to go in terms of equality.
Film-lovers looking to support movies that are inclusive of — and supportive of — women in ways other than their sex appeal do have one tool they can look to: the Bechdel test. Conceived by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test asks whether a film includes at least two female characters who talk to each other about a subject other than men. Interestingly, many contemporary movies don’t pass the test, even though studies have found that movies that pass the test gross higher in the box office than those that don’t.
Until the day when women are equally represented on the silver screen, you can help yourself help women by using Watch This Instead, a database created by software developer Shannon Turner to track movies’ Bechdel scores. Why? Because a strong, intelligent woman is far sexier than a vapid one, don’t you think?
[Pic via screengrab - Hunger Games: Mockingjay trailer]