Why is it still important to talk about equality in film?
If you listened to episode 17, you heard us discuss a whole host of topics, but one of the recurring themes you heard was my thought on films this year and how they portrayed women and minorities. We made some interesting comments about the “PC Movement” and about feminism in movies being a “numbers game.” In a study published this year called, “Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Gender, Race, and LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014,” it turns out, equality in films is a numbers game.
In the study, the researchers evaluated the top 100 movies from 2007 to 2014, totaling up to 700 films. The year 2014 in particular gave us some staggering insight- only 21 of the 100 films had a lead female role. Of those 21 films, zero of those female roles were women over the age of 40, and none of them were lesbian or bisexual.
The same study also found that in the year 2014, 73% of lead male characters were white. 17 of the top 100 movies of that year did not feature a single black character. Not a single one. Over 40 did not feature a single Asian character. This was last year, people.
Now, some may argue that 2015 has brought on a major wave of progression. I would agree. We saw Rey lead the fight against the bad guys in Star Wars, saw Furiosa kick some ass and rescue some folks in Mad Max, watched Joy and Sadness save Riley in Inside Out, and we will see Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play lovers in Carol (haven’t seen it yet since it’s in limited theaters).
This year we also saw Michael B. Jordan play a lead role in Creed, an extension of the iconic Rocky franchise, saw Straight Outta Compton smash the box office with $161m in revenue, and saw John Boyega enter the Star Wars universe in all his charismatic glory.
So then why is it still important to talk about equality in film? Why do I insist on making a big deal of movies that starred women this year? Because the movies I’ve noted above are still a subset of what has come out. They are still the exception and not the rule. And we’ve had to wait until 2015 to get this far- that’s almost 90 years since the first talking movie, The Jazz Singer, came out in 1927.
Reading through the study, 2014 sent an abysmal message to women, people of color, and children about what and who we value in films.
Think about the rich cinematic landscape we will have if we continue push for progression. By pushing, I mean voting- with your dollars. If we support progressive movies, we will get more of them.
So, it’s 2015 and we have Hillary Clinton as a presidential hopeful, and Rey as a Jedi. Women should kick their feet up and relax, right? Over my dead body. Let’s hope 2015’s numbers in the top 100 films show how much we value progression, and then let’s double it again in 2016.
Here’s the link to the study where I got my information,and I encourage everyone to read it in full.