Abbeygate Sixth Form College student Ella Gorman reflects on potential inequalities in the film industry
In the last decade, women have come to dominate high positions in areas like business more than ever before.
However, in the film industry, there is often an absence of knowledge and discussion about gender inequality and a failure to recognise this ongoing problem.
Film has the power to shape culture and thus, the people behind it have a responsibility to confront discrimination.
If I ask you to name a director, the chances are you will name a man. When you type film directors into Google, out of the 50 examples that appear, five are women. Last year, just 16 per cent of directors on the 100 highest-grossing films were female. To change these patterns, the solution would appear to be to hire more female directors.
I’d suggest, both male and female executives think male when they think director as the traits of leadership are perceived to be masculine, automatically perpetuating the gender imbalance. In terms of casting, female leads are less encouraged, as films with women at the heart of them are believed to generate less money.
This misconception is actually costly, as women are responsible for much higher profitability; and investing in women can and does lead to successful films.
The portrayal of women on screen – with females being more likely to be sexualised than their male counterparts in my opinion – highlights the industry’s tendency to undermine the ability of a woman to break stereotypes because their other qualities are overlooked.
The British film theorist Laura Mulvey’s theory of the ‘male gaze’ explores the act of depicting women as objects of male desire and positioning them from the eyes of a heterosexual man. This can lead to body dissatisfaction and internalisation of the thin ideal among viewers. Even looking at Rotten Tomatoes’ critics, men make up 73 per cent of the total critics.
On the site (Rotten Tomatoes), an overall score is created from all the reviews of a film for audiences to judge whether a film is worth their money. Critics do not necessarily go into a film with a certain bias, but an overwhelming male audience can skew the score. Most people would simply respond with ‘maybe there isn’t as many women in the film industry’.
In actuality, I’d suggest that film students tend to be a 50/50 split based on my experiences, showing the absence of women isn’t based on a lack of drive or interest but that women are ignored once they start working. But films are just films aren’t they? Do they really have an impact?
In the year Jaws came out, people listed sharks among their top fears. With The Hunger Games’ release, female participation in archery increased. The films you watch affect your career choices, relationships and your personal identity. Watching films, devoid of female presence from a young age can warp children’s opinions on the world. While we must accept that the entertainment industry is just that, (entertainment), we must also accept its power to produce and promote damaging and demeaning images and ideologies worldwide.
However, times are changing with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media raising awareness, Emma Watson using her Harry Potter fame to spearhead the UN’s ‘HeForShe’ campaign and Meryl Streep’s continued effort to challenge the press about gender bias in the world of film.
To battle inequality, as consumers, I suggest you vote with your money, support filmmakers who deserve it and stimulate conversation and debate.
-- Ella Gorman is in Year 12 and studies A-levels in English Literature, Film Studies and Psychology as well as completing the Extended Project Qualification.