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Is Gender Inequality in Film Becoming Less Prevalent?

by Sylar


ROGATE

2, April, 2015

Out of the top 50 films of 2013, 24 films had two or more female characters who spoke to each other about something other than a man. These films made 4.22 billion dollars, while the films that did not made only 2.66 billion (Vocativ). Gender inequality in film has recently become quite a controversial topic. From 1921-1968, the majority of films failed the Bechdel test, created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The test assesses the film using the following criteria: It has to have at least two women who speak to each other about something other than a man. After 1968, the number of films that pass the Bechdel test has slowly grown, and 106 out of 188 films released in 2014 passed the test (Bechdel).Gender inequality is becoming less prevalent in film because films that feature empowered female characters make more money than films that do not.

To fully understand this topic, some terms need to be defined. In this essay, gender is the state of being male or female (Merriam Webster). Inequality is an unfair situation in which some people have more rights or better opportunities than other people (Merriam Webster). Film is the process, art, or business of making movies (Merriam Webster). Empowered female characters are [characters] not stepped on for being a woman (Impishidea). Money is something (such as coins or bills) used as a way to pay for goods and services and to pay people for their work (Merriam Webster).

In this essay, descriptive research was used to gather information. The main research was conducted through online sources, articles, books, and e-mails. Industry professionals from both the financial and creative sides of film production contributed as primary sources. Presentation papers were utilized to provide the historical context of industry processes and profit motives throughout the growth of the Hollywood production industry. Gender equality was discussed in both primary and secondary sources.

SPECIFICS: In the variety of sources used for this essay, one of two points was presented. Either the source stated gender inequality is becoming less prevalent in film, or it is not becoming less prevalent in film. Some of the sources that said gender inequality is becoming less prevalent in film include Bechdel Test Movie List, Hollywood Movies With Strong Female Characters Make More Money, Sugar, Spice, and Guts, and From Now on, Women Save the World. These sources show that empowered female characters are gradually becoming more popular as time goes on (because . . .).

ADD DETAIL: Some of the sources that said gender inequality is not becoming less prevalent in film include Gender Inequality in Film infographic, Gender in Media: The Myths and Facts, and Stacy Smith News and Research. In entirety, these sources state that there are not enough empowered female characters in film today, so there is no way gender inequality in film could lessen. Nina Jacobson, the producer of the high-grossing film franchise The Hunger Games, disagrees with this essay’s thesis as well.

To fully understand the sources, an analysis was completed. Since the sources are broken into two categories, it is easier to analyze the data by supporting and non-supporting viewpoints. The supporting viewpoints say gender inequality in film is not prevalent. They show that more and more films are passing the Bechdel test each year, which means more and more films have two female characters who speak to each other about something other than a man. In the past few years, the majority of films have been passing the Bechdel test (Bechdel), and films that pass made more money than films that did not in 2013 (Vocativ) (SUPPORT WITH A CHART). Increasingly, more empowered female heroines are finding their way into popular movies, such as The Hunger Game’s Katniss Everdeen and Divergent’s Tris Prior (New York Times). And quite recently, Disney’s highest grossing film ever, Frozen, follows two empowered female characters and made over 1 billion dollars worldwide.

Still, there is evidence that does not support the thesis. The opposing viewpoints say gender inequality in film is prevalent because women are still being paid less. Of the top 16 paychecks earned by actors in 2013, not one was earned by a female actress. In addition, these sources show women characters are still treated more like hypersexualized objects rather than empowered characters. In the top grossing films from 2007-2012, 26.2% of female characters are partially naked, and 28.8% wear sexualized clothing. When it came to men, 9.4% get partially naked, and 7% wear sexually revealing clothing (NYFA). Female characters are still outnumbered by male characters in films, both family and adult (Seejane).

The validity of the supporting evidence could be contradicted by looking at the validity of the Bechdel test itself. While it certainly shows an improvement in gender inequality in film, the test might not be a proper way to gauge the thesis. The test does not actually investigate if the female characters are at all empowered. It just looks for two female characters who speak to each other about something other than a man. In this case, it might not be sufficient to examine the patterns of gender inequality in film.

Producer Nina Jacobson, brings up a good point. Behind the camera, there are many well-known established male directors in the field so there is less chance for women to be hired. She says, “Also, even though I want to help reverse these trends by hiring women as writers directors, cinematographers, production designers and editors, the fact that the list of established players in these categories is overwhelmingly male skews the odds so that the best person for the job often ends up being a man (Jacobson).”

Fifty Shades of Grey is a complete outlier than most films directed by, written by, and starring women. So far it has grossed over 500 million dollars in worldwide sales, and it easily passes the Bechdel test. It would be a great step in gender equality in film if the plot was for women, not against women. The story is based on abuse, and is crudely offensive to women. Still, there are multiple occasions when two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a man, which goes to show the Bechdel test is not the most valid way to test gender inequality in film.

After analyzing the data, the thesis is inconclusive. There is a fair amount of factual evidence to disprove it. However, there is still a fair amount of evidence to prove it. The claim that the Bechdel test can be used to show that gender inequality is less prevalent as time goes on could be considered invalid because it does not test any given film for the number of empowered women in a film. Additionally, some of the data is personal opinion instead of fact, including Nina Jacobson’s primary source (Appendix A). Gender inequality is an ongoing topic that recieves a lot of attention in public discourse today.

In the future, there are ways to better research the progression of gender inequality in film. First, the researcher can continue to review into popular films and analyze how female characters are being utilized. Second, a better answer is to create a new test, similar to the Bechdel test. Instead of only looking for two female characters who speak to each other about something other than a man, this test can look for empowered female characters and how they deal with situations in the film. This test could also compare the number of female cast/crew members compared to male.

Gender inequality is a controversial topic that needs to be discussed at greater length. It is quite easy to make a film that passes the Bechdel test. To stop gender inequality in film, filmmakers need to learn to take away some hypersexualization of the female characters in their films, especially if the character is a teenager. Filmmakers can also add at least one empowered female character to their film. It might even make their film more popular, since films that feature empowered female characters make more money than films that do not.

Works Cited:

Bechdel Test Movie List. n.p. n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

"From Now On, Women Save the World" New York Times. 2014 New York Times Company, 3 Sept 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

“Gender Inequality in Film- An Infographic.” New York Film Academy. n.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 3 Sept. 2014.

"Gender in Media: The Myths and Facts" See Jane. Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

"Hollywood Movies With Strong Female Roles Make More Money" Vocativ. n.p., 2 Jan 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

"Stacy Smith News and Research" USC Annenberg. 2014 University of Southern California, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.

E-MAIL RESPONSE

DEINITIONS

Appendix A: Nina Jacobson Primary Source

Questions: Dear Ms. Jacobson,

My name is _. I am an eighth grade student. I am part of a program in which we write a research paper on a topic we choose. I chose to research gender inequality in film.

Because you are one of the most important women in film right now, I would appreciate your responses to the following questions.

Here are the questions for you to answer:

  • Do you believe gender inequality is still prevalent in film? Why or why not?
  • Have you found gender inequality to be true in your own body of work?
  • If you have, do you believe this has shaped your work in any way?
  • What trends do you recognize happening in the filmmaking marketplace at this time?

Please e-mail me back at _ with your answers as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration of my request.

All best,

_

Answer: Gender inequality is still alive and well in film. Just look at the overwhelmingly male Oscar nominations if you need proof. The problem is that history lives in the present and extends to the future. People with a foothold will often mentor and champion younger people who remind them of themselves, so white men beget more white men. Also, even though I want to help reverse these trends by hiring women as writers directors, cinematographers, production designers and editors, the fact that the list of established players in these categories is overwhelmingly male (and white) skews the odds so that the best person for the job often ends up being a man.

I do not personally think I have been discriminated against in any specific instances. However, I have seen countless men fail upward and countless women succeed downward.

I think there is a greater awareness of these issues. The conversation is happening but change is slow.

Hope this helps.

N


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Sun Jan 25, 2015 9:05 pm
Astronaut says...



I can't really leave a full review, because, well, ROGATE. But what about the appendix?




Sylar says...


I added it



Astronaut says...


K :D



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Sun Jan 25, 2015 7:06 pm
yellow wrote a review...



Hello there Sylar! CaptainSaltWater here with a review for you!

First word that comes out of my mouth is "wow." This is really scientific, a lot of statistics, and and very factual. But I do have one big question. What sources did you get some of these facts? In my opinion, I find it highly unlikely for a thirteen year old to write this article without looking up one single fact in a book or on the internet. Also, as niteowl said, the organization is strange. The ending didn't sound like much of an ending, either. Maybe you should have a summary or a conclusion that ties it all off. Also as niteowl said, you should say more about Nina Jacobson. Otherwise good job. You sounded very intelligent and intellectual. I would like to see more of your articles. Don't give up and always write, Sylar!

-CaptainSaltWater

P.S., Happy review day!




Sylar says...


Thanks so much! And sorry, I forgot to add my works cited, but I fixed it



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Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:25 am
niteowl wrote a review...



Hi there Sylar! Niteowl here to review this essay for Team Blue Moon this fine Review Day!

Overall, I agree this is an important topic to write about and I think you did a pretty good job. You used a wide variety of sources on both sides of the issue and definitely make the reader think about these issues.

Some things to think about:

The organization of this essay is kind of strange to me. This might be what your teacher wants, but if not, I would consider synthesizing the different parts more (e.g. instead of listing the sources separately, I would say something like "X source says that we have more gender equality in film, but Y says that doesn't go far enough."

I dislike the term "empowered" as you use it here. To me, it conjures up images of a very narrow type of female character, when in reality gender equality in film would mean a greater diversity of female roles, not just strong leaders. It would also mean that more films would show female characters with more substance to their stories (as opposed to being just a sidekick or love interest).

It might be worth saying a bit more about this Nina Jacobson character. What sort of films has she produced? Okay, so I just Googled her, and I have to say I'm impressed that you got in touch with her and she responded.


Overall, great job and keep writing! :)




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Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:40 am
Nightshade21 wrote a review...



Hi night here to review! this is going to be a short review because I loved your essay.
I also liked how you gave the background info before starting to let people know and for the reader to be able to stand on the same place together to begin with, for those who have no ideas.

I liked how you added research from other sites and places to help instead of it becoming a rant with no information to back it up. I really liked your word choice to, you sound like college student :)

An example:

"To stop gender inequality in film, filmmakers need to learn to take away some hypersexualization of many female characters in their films, especially if the character is a teenager"

I also really liked how you also had a call to action by saying the film makers need to learn.

Overall, I really liked this and I can't wait to read more from you

~Night




Sylar says...


Thank you so much, and I really sound like a college student? I thought I just sounded like the pretentious 13 year old I am :P



Nightshade21 says...


never would have guessed you were 13 lol :)




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