On March 1st, The Representation Project published “An Open Letter to Hollywood”, as an advertisement, in the Los Angeles Times. I wanted to take this opportunity to write my own letter to Hollywood.
In case you haven’t flipped your desk calendar in oh I don’t know, decades, you might have missed that it is now 2014. Yup I am not lying, 2014. Now keep this fact in mind.
The advertisement from the Los Angeles Times included facts that highlighted a major problem in Hollywood, the lack of women and girls.
According to the advertisement:
Women and girls comprise 52% of moviegoers and 50% of all ticket buyers in the United States. They are also half of the entire world’s population
Women were just 15% of protagonists in the top films last year and only 30% of characters who spoke. Women of color were even less
And as if it could not get worse:
Women were just 6% of directors and only 10% of writers in 2013’s top films — lower numbers than in 1998
Now again remember it is 2014!
Let me introduce you all to the Bechdel Test*. This test (originally devised in a Alison Bechdel comic, “Dykes To Watch Out For” in 1985) is designed to gauge how females are represented in movies, based on three small questions.
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
This sounds easy right? Not so much.
Think of your favorite movie…………got it? Ok now does it pass? I would take a guess and say no.
Let me give you a few examples of movies that didn’t pass that surprised me:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
The entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy
I do not mean to say these movies should be boycotted or that I do not enjoy them because I do but there needs to be more.
What a conundrum you have gotten yourself into Hollywood. What ever will you do?
Wait wait WAIT! I got it!
Make more movies that pass the test.
I can only guess what some possible defensive reactions will be to this information:
“movies with girls? ewwww”
“who would watch movies with better female representations?”
“but we aren’t going to make lots of money anymore!”
Now here is the kicker, this can actually potentially make you mooore money. Yes that’s right, increase your profit.
According to this study in 2013 movies that passed the Bechdel test actually made more money than movies where women only talk about men, women don’t talk to each other or there are fewer than two women. Basically people tend to like movies with fully development male AND female characters. Shocking.
Where’s the bad you ask? There has to be a catch. Well sorry to burst your bubble Hollywood, there’s no catch. But that also means there’s no more excuses.
Girls and women want to see themselves reflected in film. More than just in the standard sexy attire, partially nude, or conventionally beautiful characters.
Girls and women want to see women engage in conversation in something besides a relationship. For those of you who are confused girls do more than talk about relationships, sorry boys.
Limiting and harmful representations of girls and women in film contribute to depression, eating disorders, normalized violence and a whole slew of other problems.
So where is Hollywood to start?
Well remember that statistic waaaay back in the beginning of this post? Let me remind you: women were just 6% of directors and only 10% of writers in 2013’s top films.
Not surprisingly more women in charge tends to lead to more completely developed female characters.
You can do better Hollywood. There are women writers, directors, producers that are up to the task. Stop making the conscious decision to leave them out.
Media is a powerful tool and dictates many of our social norms. As Jim Morrison said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind”.
Women are half of the population, half of society’s mind, now let them have half of the control.
*Check out the Bechdel Test website to see the ongoing conversation of movies that pass, do not pass and why.