Women’s Week: Oscar’s Curse, Girlhood, Female Squeeze and Herzog Hits on Women

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Feb 9 Boyhood promo 3 shotAward-season favorite Boyhood by Richard Linklater has been taken to task for what it says about girlhood without exploring it further.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sharon Marcus, Dean of Humanities at Columbia University, and Anne Skomorowsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School, say the coming-of-age tale about a boy, Mason, growing up, also shows his sister, Samantha, “diminishing” in spirit as she reaches adulthood.

Marcus and Skomorowsky note that Samantha is first seen riding her bike past Mason, being outspoken and confident. But scenes between Samantha and her mother, among others, lay out the social shaping the girl is subjected to in contrast with her brother.

“In the film’s last hour, Samantha starts to fade. Her speech and voice start to disintegrate audibly: She speaks less, signals uncertainty with the constant use of the filler phrase ‘I mean’ and punctuates many of her statements with a nervous laugh,” the authors conclude.

The WSJ piece goes on to explore how the two characters are treated by the adults around them, both at home and at school and, interestingly, “shows us the different challenges that boys and girls face in holding on to the self-regard each of us possesses from infancy.”


oscars copyAn Academy Award win or nomination honors an actor at the pinnacle of her or his profession, but it turns out male winners and nominees also have a greater-than-average talent for failing in marriage, according to a study published in Organization Science.

The Real Oscar Curse: The Negative Consequences of Positive Status Shifts found that male Oscar-winning actors were three times as likely to divorce within a year of marriage (nominees were twice as likely) compared with other actors.

In contrast, female Oscar-winners and nominees have much lower divorce rates than the general population of actresses.

The study was carried out by Michael Jenson of the University of Michigan and Heeyon Kim of the National University of Singapore. They looked at 808 actors who played lead roles in films from 1930 to 2005. This included 165 Oscar winners and 227 nominees who did not win.

When it comes to the more famous Oscar curse that says careers tank following the big win, the study found this to be untrue. Both male and female winners had more roles following a win. That said, there were fewer roles available to women Oscar alumni compared to men.

As well, married male actors in the group participate in more movies than divorced male actors, while divorced female actors have more movie roles than married female actors.

Actions films see decreased movie participation for female actors. Male actors in action heroes flicks are more likely to divorce than female actors.

And male actors are more likely than their female peers to divorce if their spouse is nominated for or wins an Academy Award.


The evidence of a two-tier gender-based system in the film industry snowballs into an avalanche with the news of yet another study confirming that women are being squeezed out of lead roles in the top-grossing films, as reported in Cinema Citizen.

According to Dr.Martha Lauzen’s research at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, females were just 12 per cent of protagonists in 2014’s top-grossing films, .

This is a drop from 15 per cent from 2013 and from 16 per cent in 2001.

Women made up just 29 per cent of major characters and 30 per cent of all speaking characters in secondary roles in 2014, this is little changed from 2002 (a two per cent increase).

Other examples of on-screen male dominance includes characters portrayed by profession or in the workplace. Fifty-nine per cent of male characters were shown at work, compared with 41 per cent of female characters, and 89 per cent of men had identifiable jobs, compared to 75 per cent of women.

In their domestic worlds, 58 per cent of female characters were identified by personal definitions such as wife or mother, while 34 per cent of male characters were so defined.

The study also confirmed that female characters (and the actors playing them) were younger than male characters in top-grossing films.


herzog Queen of desert by Nick Raslan.TwitterIn Berlin to premiere his latest film Queen of the Desert starring Nicole Kidman and James Franco, veteran director Werner Herzog told a press conference he had revelation about women in his work.

Herzog, as reported in the Gulf News, said:

“I think I should have done films about female protagonists much earlier in my life. I always thought I was a director for men … and I’m glad that finally this discovery came to me, I should have done films about female characters from much, much earlier on.”

The 77-year-old added that he was “glad, finally, this discovery came to me,” and added he would continue to pursue film projects with women at the center of the story.

Queen of the Desert tells the story of British colonial adventurer, writer and spy Gertrude Bell, who shaped Britain’s mandate in the Arab world during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Women’s Week is a weekly news roundup. Please send tips and story ideas to theweekinwomen@gmail.com

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