Happy Women’s History Month! It would come as no surprise to many of you that women are often disproportionately represented in the workforce. The film industry is particularly bad in this regard. As viewers, we are often unaware of the lack of diversity in the industry, as we’re used to seeing a variety in front of the screen. But you may be surprised to find out that in front of the screen, women are often portrayed in a less than fashionable light as well.
- Women on Camera
To begin, let’s start with women in front of the camera. Over the past few decades, the film industry has made great strides in featuring people of underrepresented groups in the industry, and specifically changing the way that those groups are viewed. Blockbuster films like “Black Panther”, “Wonder Woman”, and “Hidden Figures” have done well in the box office. These films are starting to pave the way for a more inclusive industry; however, I would like to bring up something called the Bechdel test. The test came out in 1985 analyzes the presence of women in film, and it has three fairly simple requirements. To pass the Bechdel test the film must feature two named characters who are females, they must talk to each other, and their conversation has to be about something other than a man. While the test could certainly go for an update, you would be surprised by the number of films that don’t pass it. Popular blockbuster films such as “La La Land” and the “Avengers” fail this test. As popular as these films are, they fail on one of three fairly simple tasks. The test isn’t the end all be all of films, because there are certainly films that fail the test and still present strong female characteristics, but really is having two named females who talk to each other about something other than a guy too much to ask for?
- Women Behind the Camera
Between the late 90’s and early 2010’s the number of women in roles behind the camera have steadily stayed around 20%. There are hundreds of roles that go into making a feature film, and women’s presence have been increasing in areas such as costume design and makeup, but decreasing in technical areas, such as editing and lighting. As a female film major who loves editing any footage she can get her hands on, I would argue that this isn’t because women don’t want to participate in the technical side of film. The level of responsibility should also be considered. The statistics for men in the film industry holding the “most important” jobs such as director, cinematographer, writer, and producer is overwhelming. Between 1994 and 2013 men have held at a minimum 76% of the positions in these roles for the top 100 grossing movies. In the last five years or so, this has been brought to the attention of certain people, and they are working on creating all-female film crews, but those films often aren’t as well funded or high grossing as others, because they aren’t getting the support from the large film production companies.
- Women in the awards scene
With a lack of presence of women behind the camera, there is no surprise that women aren’t the ones winning at the Oscars. Obviously, women are winning in the best actress category, but I am specifically talking about non-gendered categories. The number of women donning awards for doing something behind the camera is alarmingly scary. I mean only one female has ever won best director, and the Oscars have been around for nearly a century. If you’re wondering, the prize goes to Katheryn Bigelow’s 2010 film Hurt Locker, which also won best picture. So, let’s put this in perspective. Over the course of the Oscars, there have been five women nominated for Best Director, and only one of those won. Every year, there are around five people who are nominated for best director. So in the past 92 years, only five women have been nominated, meaning that a woman nominated for this award once every 20 years.
Pretty crazy right? But the statistics don’t lie. There is no doubt in my mind that women are underrepresented in almost every aspect of the film industry, and it’s time for this to change.