There are some things which simply don’t require a ton of links and references to reinforce after they’ve been sufficiently reinforced in the public eye. One of these truisms is the fact that Hollywood stars and power brokers love lecturing the rest of us about our social responsibilities. We’re not treating our brothers and sisters across the demographic spectrum fairly enough, so they justly use their high pedastals to let us know about our shortcomings and how we can better coexist with minorities, women and the LBGT community. And thank God for them. Without their guidance, how would we know when we were going astray?
One would assume that they at least have their own house in order. But as the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports, the people who make the blockbuster films don’t exactly practice what they preach.
In the top-grossing movies since 2007, there were more than twice as many speaking roles for men as for women, according to a new report on inequality in Hollywood. And the situation isn’t getting better — in 2014, female actors represented a lower proportion of speaking roles than in any year prior.
“The only group thriving in film is white, straight, men,” Stacy L. Smith, who led the study, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. She called the phenomenon “an epidemic of invisibility.”
Okay… so they’re engaged in the War on Women. We get it. But at least they take care of minorities and gays, right?
The report also looked at a wider array of statistics from 2014, a year when movies about women (“Gone Girl,” “Wild”) and characters who were black or gay (“Selma,” “The Imitation Game”) made headlines and won critical acclaim. Those successes belied a broader, less rosy trend, the researchers said.
Of last year’s 100 top-grossing films, 21 featured a female lead and 17 a lead played by an actor from an underrepresented race or ethnicity. Of 2,610 speaking characters, just 19 were gay or lesbian and none were transgender (and almost all of those LGBT characters were played by white men).
If you want to call this hypocrisy… fine. That’s hard to argue. But there’s more than one way to be a hypocrite. Sure, the films which feature women are only using attractive ones under the age of 40 more than 70% of the time. Gay characters are almost never shown in stable relationships. White, straight men spend most of the time speaking and doing almost all of the high voltage action. But does this mean that the backers, producers, directors and other power brokers of the silver screen are actually racists, misogynists and homophobes?
Okay… maybe some of them are. Maybe a lot of them. How are we supposed to know? You can’t look into people’s hearts. We hear the same accusations against many (okay… all) conservatives, but perhaps some of them are too. The Hollywood situation is somewhat different, though. They have a product to sell, but unlike companies who sell gasoline, refrigerators or automobiles, there is no automatic market for that product. Going to the movies is a completely optional activity and if all the movies currently at the multiplex look like dogs you can go do something else.
They make movies which put people’s back sides in seats and get them to break out their wallets and buy tickets. Let’s take just one metric of the literal test that equality warriors want the producers to pass – the bechdel test. It checks films to see if two women have a significant conversation which isn’t about a man over the course of the film.
Earlier this year, a similar report from University of California – Los Angeles concluded that women and minorities were “woefully underrepresented” in television and film. And then there are the non-academic projects —like the viral videos documenting “Every Single Word” spoken by an actor of color and the oft-cited Bechdel Test, which judges movies based on whether two named female characters have a conversation about anything other than a man (the test is 30 years old and still only two of this year’s Best Picture nominees passed it) — that shine an uncomfortable spotlight on just how underrepresented women and minorities really are in Hollywood.
The article throws around a few of the movies which the Hollywood elite should be making. The two which passed the test were Boyhood and Selma. The one with the “strong female lead” was Wild. Now let’s take a look at the box office take from last year. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were American Sniper, the most recent Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy. They all took in more than $300M. Where did the others place? The best of the bunch was Selma in 61st place grossing $52M. Wild was in 83rd place with $37M. And Boyhood, with the important, two woman conversation, landed at number 100 with a gross of $25M.
For all its faults, Hollywood is a business. They have to make movies that people will actually watch. Passing some imposed test of political correctness doesn’t get people into the theaters. You might want to think about that in your critique.