The last time I posted here, I was contemplating what it meant when a character in a story had agency. Adjacent to that topic is the idea of representation in media. How often do you see characters like yourself and why is that important?
Last fall I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘This Changes Everything’ which talked about the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the film industry.
Remember the kid’s books in the 50’s? ‘See Dick, See Jane’
And I just felt like, you know, we see Dick all the time.
I just wanted to see more Jane.– Geena Davis
After watching the documentary, I headed to the internet to learn more. I started with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. (https://seejane.org/) The site has a lot of fascinating studies about mainstream media.
For example, they have published a joint study about women over 50. Not surprisingly, men over 50 are portrayed more often than women over 50. Women over 50 are often regulated to support roles and LGBTQA+ or disabled representation in the age demographic is even more sparse.
The original premise, however, was studying the gender imbalances seen in media. From articles published in 2008-2010, they concluded that there’d been little forward movement, that “for nearly 60 years, gender inequality on screen has remained largely unchanged and unchecked.”
How about now? Are we making any progress?
With the explosion of streaming services, there certainly seems to be more diversity with more options for entertainment now. But has any of that impacted the box office? Are the big studios keeping up?
I scoured Wikipedia for movies and Google for directors and found the following regarding 2022 films from the ‘Big Studios’:
- Universal Pictures, 6 out of 29, 20% directed by women
- Paramount Pictures, 1 out of 18, 5% directed by women
- Warner Bros. Pictures, 4 out of 26, 15% directed by women
- Walt Disney Pictures, 11 out of 43, 25% directed by women (none that were directed by women were a theatrical release)1
- Columbia Pictures, 2 out of 10, 20% directed by women
This is just considering the gender of the director, which doesn’t take into account any of the other creative leads or decision-makers involved with making a film. Representation in everything from writers to producers to editors to score composers is slow to become equitable.
Until women are on equal footing behind the camera, we’ll unlikely be on equal footing in front of it. Until then, we can celebrate the movies directed by women so far and continue to seek out more representative material when we browse through streaming sites.
Some additional articles to help find movies to watch:
2 thoughts on “Women Behind the Camera”
Sadly, I’m not surprised by the lack of progress. Like so many things, big companies act VERY excited when they have that one minority group in their film in some capacity, check off the box and go RIGHT back to the way they were doing things before. Plus, women are not encouraged to take on these kind of roles, lords knows the entertainment industry if full of gate keeping to a level I can’t even begin to grasp. We have to keep showing our support for the women that do manage to break through and they need to be willing to reach down and pull more women up.
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You are exactly right in that a box gets checked and then it’s back to ‘boys club’ (aka. business as normal). In sifting through some of the material on seejane.org (and just googling movies), I think OTHER studios are beginning to fill in the gaps, but the Big Studios are still inadequate in my opinion.