Get Ready for More of the Same

This link, via Kottke.org, points out how few women/women films masses of human beings will shell out money for. An interesting tally:

Two Female Leads

Quick, name a few recent popular movies where the two top-billed stars are female.

Here’s a miscellaneous survey I just did, tallied by gender of top billed/second billed star:

M/M M/F F/M F/F
20 biggest movies of 2007 10 10 0 0
20 biggest movies of 2006 11 7 0 2
20 biggest movies of 2005 11 7 2 0
20 biggest movies of 2004 10 9 1 0
20 biggest movies since 1977 15 5 0 0
IMDb Top 20 of All Time 15 5 0 0

There were about 110 movies with a male lead and 5 with a female lead. Of the second-billed females, nearly all are written as love interests of the first-billed man. There were over sixty movies in the sample with two male stars top-billed. The only movies with two top-billed female roles, on the other hand, were The Devil Wears Prada and Scary Movie 4.

My cousin has been working on tallying (by hand!) all movies with two top-billed female stars. She reports that there are staggeringly few of them, and the roles fall mainly in two genres: mother-daughter bonding movies and horror films. Hollywood is not creating female heroes.

0 Comments on this Post

  1. glimmer

    even worse you ‘average’ movie fan aka those that are only into top five for the weekend type stuff/not doesn’t think this isn’t a problem. they not aware of it either.

    so we’ll get more of the same indeed…. :(

    but who cares right ??? we’re gonna get transformer 2 and that’s all that counts. ;)

  2. Gentle Benj

    Nerd confessions: for the last few years I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of the top movies of the year by “box office presence” (i.e., not just pure gross, but also longevity in the top ten, etc.). Along with that, I’ve been keeping track of the directors and top stars in each film, to see who the big luminaries for each year were.

    And I saw the exact same trend. I expected to see virtually zero women among the top directors–that is known. But I was amazed how rarely movies with women at the head of the cast made the lists.

    On a similar line of thought: a while back there was a list (from Radar?) of the most misogynistic movies of the decade. Superbad was on there, and the article complained that “dick-obsessed Seth is not cute. His cluelessness is not charming. He’s a cretin.” I felt my hackles rise a bit–I liked Seth! But then I thought: the movies are full of characters like him, who are goofy-looking and awkward and kind of an a-hole sometimes, but who have redeeming qualities and get the girl. But analogous women characters? Not so much.

    So men get their “you are lovable just the way you are” message, but women don’t. And then I realized that women DO… but not from the movies. From TV. For better or worse, that void is filled by the talk shows. Okay, worse. Movies are more awesome than talk shows. We all know this.

    And this gender/medium divide would work very nicely if cinema audiences were predominantly male, but unless I’m mistaken, that’s not even close to true. So I’ve got more thinking to do.

  3. Pierre de Plume

    People can talk about this subject forever, but it’s analyses such as this one that can demonstrate what’s really happening. I hope to see more of this type of thing. Statistical studies like these are valuable.

  4. Alison Flynn

    Gentl Benj: You’re right that women get the message from TV. And not just from talk shows. There are strong, smart female characters in TV: Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU, just to use give a couple of examples.

    It’s unfortunate that this is not the case in film. Juno was one of the exceptions of 2007.

  5. I’d spin it a slightly different way. I don’t think it’s that audiences aren’t lining up to see movies with women in them, it’s that the big, stupid, summer blockbusters that are built and marketed to be huge are made for 13-year-old boys by people with the mentality of 13-year-old boys.

    The end result is the same, but I guess I still have a little faith left in audiences.

  6. glimmer

    that was awesome, Gentle Benj !!!!!!! :)

    *encore *

  7. Haroldsmaude

    Interesting, and sad. And even the women directors aren’t championing women=featured films. It seems that when they start out they do (e.g., Kimberly Pierce), then they find that to stay in the game they need to make the films that they are paid to make.

    Notice too the steep negative gender correlation between who is producing the films and the number of female starring films. Men produce the films, write the films, direct the films and market the films for men. Unless they think they can make a buck off the women. In either case, women are used to sell films to 13 year old boys (and I’m not talking Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore), or they are used to sell films to women (and that means a heterosexual love story that has to include a woman, but who is paired with a hunky age-matched male star (who gets paid more money for starring in the film).

    In short, men don’t take chances to miss making a buck. Remember Steve Martin’s character in Grand Canyon? He’s why there are so few female=starring films.

  8. Glad that we are having this conversation but this is something that people who care about women and film have been thinking about for some time. Bottom line is the studios don’t have any confidence that women leads can attract butts in the seats for Friday night and they also know that women leads don’t sell overseas. Women who buy 50% of the movie tickets have to be smarter with our money and support women made and women-centric films so that more of them get made.

    Here’s some more food for thought:

    • In 2006, only 3 movies in the top 50 starred or were focused on women. (EW)
    • In 2006, less than a dozen of the 307 films eligible for an Oscar were women driven (EW).
    • In 2007, only 5 of the top 50 films starred or were focused on women. (my count)
    • Of the 150 films nominated for best picture from 1977-2006, only 5.5 were directed by women (USC).
    • Of the 6,833 single speaking characters in the film nominated for best picture from 1977-2006 only 27.3% were females. (USC)
    • In 2007, women only comprised 15% of all directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 grossing films (San Diego State)

    If you can about issues related to women & hollywood check out my site: http://womenandhollywood.blogspot.com/

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