As 2018 came to an end, award season began entering the limelight. Last year, although the Weinstein scandal brought a lot of attention toward women in cinema—but while awareness and advocacy have increased regarding gender-based discrimination, statistics show that women in film, and especially women of color, continue to face significant inequality.
Post-Weinstein: How far has the industry gone?
The Celluloid Ceiling report found that statistics regarding women working behind the camera have not significantly improved since 1998, while Annenberg reports that only 12% of film and television productions in 2016 featured a balanced cast where half of the speaking characters were women.
Only 11% of director positions and 4% of cinematographer jobs go to women. According to Forbes 2017 income list, the top 10 highest-paid actresses earned a collective $172.5 million; the top 10 male actors made $488.5 million. In 2017, the highest-paid male actors, Mark Wahlberg, made $68 million, while the highest-paid actress, Emma Stone, made $26 million—less than the top fourteen highest-paid men.
Actresses in the film industry endure more than just unequal pay and underrepresentation in movies; the average age of actresses is also significantly lower than actors. According to the NYFA’s report, the average age of the top ten highest-paid female actors is 39.5, while it’s 51.6 for actors.
This year, a female-centric film sought to change this notion. The Wife navigates the multidimensional marriage of Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) and her celebrated husband, Nobel Prize-winning writer Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). In exploring one flawed marriage, the film highlights a much greater issue in society: a woman’s place in the public sphere. It’s not a question of whether she deserves it, but whether the public would validate a female artist’s talent.
John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place released earlier this year also made quite a mark with its casting of a deaf actress in one of the leading roles. The decision to include a deaf child actress in the film signifies the industry’s efforts to diversify its stars. Although children actors and actresses have been in the limelight recently (see: Stranger Things, It, The Florida Project), this film goes further. The inclusion of a real deaf actress makes A Quiet Place authentic: Millicent Simmonds brings the personality and nature of someone who truly experiences life deaf. Subsequent to The Shape of Water’s groundbreaking success, female marginalized artists continue to be recognized. Simmonds said in a recent interview, “I think it’s important in the deaf community to advocate for and be a representative [of] this story. A story that might inspire directors and other screenwriters to include more deaf talent and be more creative in the way you use deaf talent.”
Golden Globes Nominations and the Bechdel Test
Earlier this month, the Golden Globes nominations were announced. Amongst the leading pictures nominated are A Star Is Born, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Vice, Green Book, and the television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Getting a closer look at the nominees, it’s clear the industry has made some progress in representation. Three of the five movies nominated for Best Motion Picture (Drama) were directed by black directors: Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. As for the Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite are amongst the top nominees. The Best Pictures nominated indicate that non-white directors are beginning to be recognized for their work and receive attention from the public. Despite the well-deserved celebration of these directors, all the movies nominated for Best Picture were directed by males—including the female-dominated The Favourite and the female-led Mary Poppins Returns. Out of the films nominated this year, the characters and stories explored are primarily male-focused: such is the case with Vice, Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, BlacKkKlansman, and Black Panther. But in A Star Is Born, both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s characters are developed, complex, and contribute equally to the storyline.
In 2018, we’ve seen the successes of female-led films including Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, A Star Is Born, Ocean’s 8, and The Favourite. While there is no questions that Hollywood has a long way to go in removing the many stereotypes and hurdles faced by actresses and female filmmakers, these achievements provide hope that more Hollywood films will showcase women in active, less sexualized roles.
Diversity and representation are certainly coming into the public’s attention. In 2019, I hope to use Reel Talk to explore movies that truly champion inclusivity.