Hollywood content creators agree that females should have more prominent roles in family-friendly films and TV shows. genConnect connects with Madeline Di Nonno, Executive Director of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, to speak on the research and changes ahead …
Girls rock, and the entertainment industry needs to recognize it more.
That’s the mantra for The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM), which recently released a study that found that content creators are aware of gender imbalances in family films and want to give female characters their due.
The study, “Changing the Status Quo: Industry Leaders’ Perceptions of Gender in Family Films,” also found that content creators, such as movie director or TV show writers, believe gender equality is important, and not that difficult to attain – particularly when it comes to family-friendly programming.
Madeline Di Nonno is the Institute’s executive director and spearheads See Jane, a program which works cooperatively with entertainment creators to encourage them to be leaders in creating positive change. In an interview with genConnect, Di Nonno told us that producers and directors are actively creating story lines that portray females as strong characters; however, change will not happen overnight. Di Nonno advises parents to have open discussions with their children about certain story lines and characters they watch in the movies and television.
“Parents should watch shows with their children and use mitigating language if there’s a theme where there aren’t enough female characters,” said Di Nonno . “Ask your children, ‘Do you think a girl could have played that character?””
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, founded by Academy Award winning actress Geena Davis, aims to increase awareness of the importance of females’ role in entertainment. Six years ago, while watching children’s television programs and videos with her young daughter, Davis noticed a large imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters. She then began to raise funds to research gender in children’s entertainment. The research showed that in the top-grossing G-rated films, there were three male characters for every one female - a statistic that the organization says still has not improved. The organization’s previous study, “An Examination of Gender On Screen and Behind the Camera in G, PG, and PG-13 Films,” found that within films especially geared towards children and families, female roles remain not only scarce, but highly sexualized, stereotyped and marginalized.
Davis’ own career has included roles as as baseball player in the favorite film, “A League of Their Own,” the country’s first female president in the hit ABC television show, “Commander in Chief,” and a female pirate in the film, “Cutthroat Island.”
Di Nonno noted that 500 to 600 movies are made a year, but it can take five years for an animated film to be finished. So, we should see progress in females’ roles by 2015.
“The myth that girls will watch boys, but boys won’t watch girls, is not true,” she said. “We’re in the process of testing that. To me, it’s just a myth that’s not true. When you look at the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] data on who’s actually buying movie tickets, women make ninety percent of all purchasing decisions and they’re fifty percent of all movie tickets purchases. Women are fifty percent of ticket purchases in the eighteen-to twenty-four age group.”
That means that women have the consumer power to send a strong message to Hollywood to make sure women and girls are on balance with their male counterparts in TV and film.
One important finding of the study was that content creators do think gender equality is not only possible, but very important, particularly in family-friendly films.
“We are confident that we are becoming an influencing factor in this new movement. People forget that people in the entertainment community care about kids too. Many of them are parents themselves,” Di Nonno also said in a press release announcing the study.
Among other things, the study also found:
- Content creators are aware of the gender imbalance in G, PG and PG-13 rated films, with the average percentage of females estimated in the typical feature film being 30.7%,4 with female leaders estimating a lower percentage of girls/women on screen (27.8%) than male leaders (32.4%). Many content creators indicated that girls/women who had speaking roles screen had either increased (36.8%) or stayed about the same (48.1%) in the last 20 years.
- When asked why they think that females represent less than 30% of all speaking characters, content creators cited reasons such as: The positive qualities or an increase in the quantity of male leads, male stars, or male-driven properties; film is a male-dominated industry; and it’s believed that males go to the movies more, or make decisions as to what movie he and his significant other see.
- Very few females are directors, producers or writers in film, yet those films that do have more of a female touch behind the scenes tend to have significantly more female speaking characters.
- The majority of those content creators surveyed do not think that correcting gender imbalances in film will have a negative effect on their bottom line.
“Some content creators, when explaining why gender balance is important, indicated that scripts and stories should reflect reality, provide visibility for a multitude of male and female voices, and strive for equity,” the study concludes. “Yet, story and creative license to tell narratives in the way content creators desire are paramount to the process and need to be protected. Despite this importance, many industry leaders indicated that balanced casts are not something to which they pay attention or will affect – positively or negatively – a studio’s investment.”
For related stories on genConnect:
- Shifts in Perception: From Daytime Soaps to Reality TV, by Candace Silvers
- Tiffany Shlain on Her Documentary, “Connected”
- Innovation Expert Sir Ken Robinson: Life Isn’t ‘A Production Line’
- Actor Charlie Sheen’s ‘Career Suicide?’ Career Expert Vicki Salemi
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