Thursday, May 24, 2012

Women in the Film Industry

Following my previous post about sexism in the scientific community, I was reminded of similar stories which have emerged recently about the treatment of women working in the film industry. Many people were angered this year when the shortlist for the Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival was announced and no films by female directors were included. The organisers countered that although there were women on the longlist, it wasn't thought that their films merited nomination and that all of the films were judged irrespective of the gender of their director. However, a bit of internet research has revealed to me this is the 63rd time in the festival's 65 year history that all of the nominated directors were male, so perhaps there is a little more to it.

It could be argued that women perhaps make films that don't generally sit well with male-dominated juries. However it is also true that there simply aren't many female directors (or producers). The reasons why women are either reticent to enter the industry or why so few make it into the upper echelons appear to be complex, but are perhaps deeply rooted in our cultural history which demarcates male and female roles. It may also explain why sexism and lack of representation of women could become self-perpetuating in this business.

Hollywood blockbuster movies tend to be targeted directly at a mainly young male audience and this significantly affects how women are portrayed on the big screen. I read about an amazing statistic recently which has become known as the Bechdel Test (after author Allison Bechdel, who came up with it). To pass the test, a film simply has to portray two female characters in one scene, having a meaningful conversation together about anything other than men. It is truly remarkable how many Hollywood movies fail in this respect.

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