Where Are the Women?: Gender at the Movies

By Elizabeth Stebbins

 

Sometimes I wonder just how many car-chase-explosion movies and games people can make and still be successful. After six The Fast and the Furious movies, two tie-in short films, a video game series, approximately fifteen variations on the Grand Theft Auto video game series (and all the rival open-world-driving-and-shooting video game competitors), Rush Hour (1, 2, and 3), Need For Speed, The Expendables, The A-Team, and so many more, they’re still coming. It’s definitely a matter of personal taste, and these movies can be attractive to all genders and sexualities, but I find one overwhelming and frustrating trend in this genre: an imbalance between male and female characters.

 

I was watching TV the other day when one variation of the cars-and-explosion-movie came on. I watched for a solid ten minutes as the camera flicked between the usually Caucasian faces of twenty-something men covered in dirt yelling at each other. I tried to picture a movie with female characters represented this pervasively. If every single main character was female, I would definitely notice and probably think it was pretty cool. This has happened with a few, successful movies—Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect, and even The Hunger Games. However, a cast with more females than males is still something noteworthy, a cultural phenomenon, something out of the ordinary. This lack of representation in the media seeps into the real world as well: one study found that when a crowd is 17% female, a male in the crowd perceives it as 50/50. If women are bumped up to 33%, they’re perceived as more than 50% of the crowd. Movies have built a reality where females are so scarce that when they are underrepresented, we perceive them as equal.

 

I find this desire to create a male-dominated world a little weird, but it makes a little more sense when the demographics of Hollywood are examined. Of people that vote on the Oscars, 77% are male. Meanwhile, only 7% of directors and 13% of writers in Hollywood are female. Hollywood is its own masculine microcosm that produces the media consumed by the entire world. This disparity in gender representation is not something that can be directly traced to damaging treatment of women, but—without even factoring in the sexualization of women in media—I think it does subtly teach people the world is male and women can’t expect to have prominent places, unless of course they’re dating prominent men.

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