Both in front of and behind the camera, women are underrepresented. Like the “glass ceiling” that keeps women and minorities from advancing in the corporate world, the “celluloid ceiling” keeps them from advancing in the cinematic world. That term comes from a yearly report of the same name by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
In a report released by the Women’s Media Center called “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013,” women comprised 18 percent of behind-the-scenes roles, which is just a 1 percent increase from 1998. This means that in 13 years, virtually nothing has changed.
The story is the same in front of the camera, too — women made up just 33 percent of characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films in 2012. While female characters are on the rise in general, female protagonists have decreased from 16 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2012.
According to the same report, 51 percent of moviegoers are females. With this in mind, young men and women who internalize these stereotyped portrayals. But even these stereotyped portrayals don’t get as much screen time as their male counterparts.
According to New York Times critic Kevin B. Lee, male protagonists get the lion’s share of screen time overall, especially in this year’s Oscar-nominated flicks. The only exception is Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” who got a whopping 73 minutes of on-screen exposure.
On the whole, men averaged 85 minutes on-screen and women averaged 57 minutes. This is an improvement over last year’s 100 to 49 ratio.
Hollywood’s blatant disregard for equal representation needs to end. But how? Geena Davis, actress and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media, has two simple steps screenwriters can follow to do their part.
Firstly go through projects you’ve written and change male names to female names and vice versa. But don’t draw attention to it in the story. Let the female character be female and let the male characters be male.
And lastly, when describing a crowd gathering, writers specify that half of it should be female. Otherwise, according to Davis, there will be no more than a 17 percent female turnout.
Viewers have a responsibility to encourage equal representation. According to political activist and linguist Noam Chomsky, “The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have.”
People in the United States are privileged, especially the white male public. It is the viewer’s duty to demand more accountability from the media. It all starts at home and the time is now.