Geena Davis: Hollywood is at a turning point for gender equality

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Geena Davis. Photo provided

Geena Davis. Photo provided

After more than a decade of commissioning research and advocating for change through her  Institute on Gender and Media, Oscar winner Geena Davis (Thelma & Louise) says that she believes Hollywood may be at a “turning point” regarding gender equality.

Speaking at Fast Company’s recent FCLA event, Davis said there has been a “tonal shift” over the last few years, especially with stars like Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Lawrence, and Natalie Portman showing they’re unafraid to speak up on the issue.

“I feel there’s definitely a chance that this is a turning point,” she said. “But the numbers haven’t changed yet. You always have to keep that in mind. It hasn’t happened yet, if you can’t measure it. The numbers haven’t turned yet. I think they will. I know, I feel very strongly, at least in children’s media, the needle is going to move significantly within five years or so.

“But the ratio of male to female characters in film is exactly the same as it’s been since 1946. It hasn’t happened yet. It’ll be historic when it does.”

She said that perception among Hollywood studio suits remain a major obstacle to change, particularly since 70 percent of the box office these days is generated overseas, where there is a perception that audiences only want to see male-driven action movies.

“So much of this is unproven. So much of Hollywood is run on ideas that have no factual basis. There’s this idea, in every fiber of every being in Hollywood, that women will watch men, but men won’t watch women. But it’s not true! It’s not a proven thing. If you have an interesting and fabulous character, boys will watch. Just as men will watch.”

Paula Patton stars in "Warcraft." Universal Pictures photo

Paula Patton stars in “Warcraft.” Universal Pictures photo

‘Warcraft’ director Duncan Jones:  ‘Women exist everywhere’

Warcraft director Duncan Jones told Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls that he had a simple, solid reason for putting the plight of Paula Patton’s character Garona at the heart of the big-screen video-game adaptation.

“The reason that it’s important to have strong female representation in this movie (Warcraft) and pretty much all movies, is that women exist everywhere and in equal numbers to men! So it makes sense that you probably might want to replicate that in pretty much all media, not just movies,” said Duncan, adding that Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor from Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day is his favorite female leading film role.

Unfortunately, Jones’ Warcraft, opening Friday in theaters, has received horrible reviews, currently ranking only 19 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and is expected to become the latest summer flop.

The Associated Press reports that several movies have underperformed this summer, including last weekend’s domestic box-office topper Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and the previous weekend’s No. 1 X-Men: Apocalypse.

But as previously reported, it’s a particularly rough blockbuster season for female-centered films. Only three of the bevy of blockbusters slated to hit theaters this summer have true female leads: Alice Through the Looking Glass, Ghostbusters and Finding Dory.

The Alice sequel opened May 27 to lackluster reviews just a second-place $28.1 million domestic take and a projected $35 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend. It was a terrible start for a film with an $170 million production budget, and last weekend, it fell to fourth place at the U.S. and Canadian box office with a $10.7 million haul.

Considering the amount of backlash surrounding Paul Feig’s women-led Ghostbusters reboot, Ellen DeGeneres’ forgetful animated fish Dory might be the only femme-centered summer movie that proves a hit.

Still, not all the box-office news is bad for women in movies: According to the AP, the romantic tearjerker Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, opened quite well last weekend, earning $18.3 million for a third-place finish. The film, based on Jojo Moyes’ bestselling novel, earned mixed reviews from critics, but audiences, who were 81 percent female and 53 percent over the age of 35 gave the film a solid A CinemaScore.

-BAM

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