Firstly, happy International Women’s Day everyone! We hope that all your reads today are good ones and are more than pleased that you have taken the time to stop by Cabla Goobla. For those of you who don’t know we are two sisters from Australia who love almost everything about film and television. We say “almost” everything because, well, let’s be real, the film and television industry is one that has a very long road to travel in terms of gender equality. If you don’t believe us, please read on, if you do believe please also read on because there are always new things to learn.
A few weeks ago at the Academy Awards, Patricia Arquette addressed the need for gender equality in the United States, it was a powerful message that really needed to be heard, particularly by the film industry.
Many of you may be thinking “Well, it seems to me like there are far more “girl power” films now than ever before, we seem to have many female protagonists who aren’t afraid to take the lead.” We regretfully inform you that this is not the case.
In 2014 only 12% of protagonists in the top 100 grossing (Domestic USA) films were female. Let that resonate.. only 12%.. that’s basically one out of ten…are you ready for some more? Speaking characters, that is any character with a line comprised of 70% males and 30% females.
Now, in case you are a little thrown by this, let’s say equality is a ratio of 50/50 (which it is) to have 12/88 is a pretty vast failure if you ask me.
But it’s not just in front of the camera where this inequality exists. Last year only 17% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers were female AND only 3% of all the films considered (the top 250 grossing films in the USA) employed more than 10 women working behind the scenes.
Only 3% of these movies had more than 10 women working behind the scenes. It takes a lot of people to make a movie guys, this is absolutely appalling. Can I also add that 79% of these films had not a single female writer on board? Not one. And only 1% of composers were female.. come on guys are you KIDDING ME!?!?
If you are wondering where I am getting these statistics I would like to direct you here. This is the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film who have done comprehensive research on these inequalities for many years. All the information before you in this post comes from the research of Martha Lauzen (PHD) and can be found on that website. I will list the particular papers I have used at the bottom, because I love to reference (If wordpress allowed footnotes I would be all over that).
So far we have seen your run of the mill inequality, clearly women are not being hired equally in FILM in the United States. Let’s take a little peek at television.
On the American broadcast networks only 27% of all behind the scenes roles (director, writer etc) were female, on Cable and Netflix series’ this is only 25%. So a quarter of these creative roles are being done by women (and can I say they are doing very very well, I’m looking at you Amy Poehler)
I need to say when I saw these statistics I was absolutely mortified. How can there be such a huge gap in roles for women in these industries in 2015!? Especially considering the percentage of female creatives have actually DECLINED since the late 1990s. You heard me, declined. We are literally moving backwards.
So, women aren’t getting the jobs they are qualified for unfortunately this is a truth that all women have to bear, not just those in Film and Television. But, what about all these butt kicking female roles we see these days in The Hunger Games and Frozen?? Those are pretty stand alone films if you look at the information available.
Let’s take a look at age, the number of male characters in their fifties is DOUBLE that of women in the top 250 grossing films and on average all female protagonists are younger than their male counterparts. Also 74% of the very few female protagonists we have, were white. So if you are a young white lady, you probably have a small chance of maybe getting hired. I would like to take a moment to provide a short definition, just in case any of you Film and TV big wigs are reading this…
Diversity – A range of different things.
Synonyms – Mix, Variety, Assortment, Range.
On TV it seems we only really handle women in Sitcoms because only 39% of protagonist characters in dramas were female. Can I also add that if you think about female protagonists on TV they are often portrayed and discussed as the worst character of them all. Think Gemma from Sons of Anarchy who although a strong matriarchal figure, is consistently scripted to betray the male characters, mess with their plans and let her emotions surpass her better judgement. True Detective, the single (living) female character cheated on her husband with his only friend / co-worker. Throw back to Breaking Bad, one of the biggest shows ever, the two female characters were constantly nagging, mistrusting and written to utterly unbearable.
This isn’t to say all TV is rampantly anti equality. Take any series by Joss Whedon (Buffy in particular) which consistently contain strong, reliable and quick thinking female protagonists. Game of Thrones, despite the constant rapings contains very intelligent, respected and strong willed female characters who are engaging, beloved and carry their story lines.
The delightful Broad City, Parks and Recreation (RIP) and The Honourable Woman and of course Orange is the New Black also come to mind to mention a few shows who contain honest, clever and fantastic female lead characters. I would also like to give an honourable mention to Michonne from The Walking Dead for being seriously badass.
SO what can we do? Can the ladies help the ladies out?? Unfortunately that’s not that accurate, in films with at least one female director only 33% of protagonists characters were female. Sigh.
We do indeed have a very long way to go in terms of gender equality in film and television. We here at Cabla Goobla hope that in time there will be less victimising and more heroism, more female writers to provide an honest female perspective and a chance for qualified, talented women to work their magic in front of and behind the camera.
I know a few of you may be reading this thinking “Ugh women just want to take over” but how can you honestly say that a 12% vs 88% of lead characters is equal, or even close. This number is a decrease from a similar study in 1998. A decrease.
The Film and Television industry needs to stand accountable for this inequality and we are in no way suggesting hiring women just for “the sake of it” but don’t disregard a writer because she’s a woman, don’t write the same young, white female character a thousand times over and over again and maybe throw someone a little different into the mix.
Take a look at the most successful franchises in the world and maybe see that people like strong female characters. The top five highest grossing films worldwide in HISTORY as of today are, Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt2 and Frozen. You know something these movies have in common (aside from being awesome, but not Avatar, Avatar sucks). They have a female character in a lead role who actually kicks series ass, isn’t afraid to take the lead, believes in a powerful cause, has dignity, resolve and a powerful mind.
Girls don’t all want to be rescued by a handsome hero, hopefully one day you will come to see that we are quite capable of doing the rescuing ourselves.
So, today we are asking you all to spread some love! Write us a comment below, a tweet (@CablaGoobla) or a Facebook comment on our page here with the names of some of your favourite female film makers! They can be directors, writers, editors or anything related to film and TV! We are excited to learn about your favourites and hopefully this helps to expose some female creative geniuses to the wider world!
Cabla Goobla OUT!
All statistics courtesy of the Center for Study of Women in Television and Film, which can be found here: http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/research.html
The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind the Scenes Employment of Women on the top 250 films of 2014
Lazen, M 2015.
It’s a Man’s World: On Screen Representations of Female Characters int he Top 100 films of 2014
Lauzen, M 2015
Boxed in: Employmend of Behind the Scene and on Screen Women in Prime Time TV
Lauzen, M 2015