Producer’s new Twitter feed calls out sexist screenwriting, while Disney anniversary celebration is cause to get talking, even if you aren’t a princess

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Megan Fox appears in a scene from "Transformers." Paramount Pictures photo

Megan Fox appears in a scene from “Transformers.” Paramount Pictures photo

If awareness is key to bringing about change, then producer Ross Putman deserves kudos for his new Twitter account @femscriptintros.

Putman told NPR he’s read thousands of scripts during his time working in the film industry in Los Angeles, and over the years, he began to find one pattern particularly problematic: the way female characters are introduced.

In particular, their initial description was overwhelmingly centered on looks: The characters were described as attractive, beautiful, hot, gorgeous, sexy, etc., etc., etc.

“I used to post my gripes to Facebook because I have a lot of friends in the business that I thought could connect to it,” Putman told NPR. “Not just the way women were treated — it was bad writing and cliches, too. But the way women were being introduced in scripts was so egregious it was becoming a pattern, not an outlier.”

At his wife’s suggestion, Putman began compiling female character intros three months ago, and two weeks ago, he began posting them on Twitter with the handle @femscriptintros.

Here’s the way he describes the account: “Producer. These are intros for female leads in actual scripts I read. Names changed to JANE, otherwise verbatim. Update as I go. Apologies if I quote your work.”

Here’s a few sample tweets Putman has posted this week alone:

– JANE, 23, waits with hot coffee. She’s an attractive, urban girl with multiple piercings.

– JANE, 22, makes her grand appearance. She is a breathtaking young woman – a vision of natural beauty.

– JANE, 17–ripe with young womanhood, lustrous dark skin and flashing eyes–hurries through the crowd.

“Ripe with young womanhood”? Ick. Sounds like a really chintzy romance novel.

Putman told NPR between 70 percent and 80 percent of all the scripts he reads are written by men. More than anything, he hopes the new Twitter account highlights that discrepancy.

Putman’s account has already drawn 61,100 followers and widespread media coverage from the likes of Wired, Time, AV Club, Mashable, the Washington Post and many more.

He’s basically revealing what many film advocates and fan have long suspected – that the often sexist way that women are depicted in movies starts with the script.

“It’s funny because you can easily point to the ridiculous ones that are just outrageously sexual,” Putman said in the Washington Post. “but I think it’s more interesting to me to see how many of these have subtle misogyny in them.”

He noted a description of a woman in her 30s as “attractive, intelligent.”

“Beyond the fact that that’s just poor writing, because that doesn’t give me any idea of who the character is, she’s attractive first and she’s intelligent second.”

A University of Southern California analysis of 30,835 characters in movies from the top-grossing films of 2007 to 2014 found that one-third of women prominently featured on screen wore skimpy or “sexy” clothing, compared to only 8 percent of the men, Danielle Paquette and Ana Swanson noted in the Washington Post.

Twenty-six percent flashed skin, while 9 percent of men did the same, and after reading some of the tweets Putman has posted, it’s not hard to see where the filmmakers got their wardrobe inspiration:

– A gorgeous woman, JANE, 23, is a little tipsy, dancing naked on her big bed, as adorable as she is sexy. *BONUS PTS FOR BEING THE 1ST LINE

– Behind a steamy shower door is the indistinguishable but sexy silhouette of JANE showering.

– JANE – his wife, 30’s, beautiful, wearing lingerie – applies lipstick in front of a mirror, making it into an erotic show.

Just think: An actual human being with a living brain wrote those words and chose to share them with other humans in script form.

The good news is that Putman already seems to be raising awareness and maybe even sparking some change. Gary Whitta, one of the story writers for the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One, tweeted that after seeing the feed he began “going through my old scripts to see if my female characters would pass the @femscriptintros test.” Parenthood writer Sarah Watson tweeted “scanning through my latest pilot and so far I pass the #FemaleCharacterIntro test. I’m guessing that I haven’t always.”

Maybe like the Bechdel Test, the Jane Test will become a handy way for screenwriters to check their work.

One thing’s for sure: Putman shouldn’t be apologizing for quoting any writer’s work. The writers should be apologizing for penning such shoddy, silly and sexist nonsense.

Elsa and Anna appear in "Frozen." Disney photo

Elsa and Anna appear in “Frozen.” Disney photo

Disney doesn’t always let its princesses do the talking

The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 special aired on ABC, and there were plenty of new renditions of Disney movie songs, hype for the Star Wars attractions coming to the theme parks and celebrities willing to praise the Mouse House for its independent and inspiring princess characters.

But linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, who have been working on a project to analyze all the dialogue from the Disney princess franchise, have found that even the more modern princess movies, which are believed to be significantly more progressive than early-day films Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, have a significant shortcoming in who does the talking.

They found that The Little Mermaid, the one that started the Mouse House’s animation renaissance, was the first Disney princess movie in which the men significantly outspoke the women, according to the Washington Post.

Men speak 68 percent of the time in The Little Mermaid; 71 percent of the time in Beauty and the Beast; 90 percent of the time in Aladdin (to be fair, even though the Disney Princess franchise claims Jasmine, it’s tough to define Aladdin as a “princess” film; Jasmine is a supporting player at best); 76 percent of the time in Pocahontas; and 77 percent of the time in Mulan (Mulan herself was counted as a woman, even when she was impersonating a man).

In the classic three Disney princess films, women speak as much as, or more than the men. Snow White is about 50-50. Cinderella is 60-40. And in Sleeping Beauty, women deliver a 71 percent of the dialogue, according to the Washington Post.

A big part of the problem is that these newer films are mostly populated by men.

“There are no women leading the townspeople to go against the Beast, no women bonding in the tavern together singing drinking songs, women giving each other directions, or women inventing things. Everybody who’s doing anything else, other than finding a husband in the movie, pretty much, is a male,” Fought said in the Washington Post report.

“My best guess is that it’s carelessness, because we’re so trained to think that male is the norm,” Eisenhauer added. “So when you want to add a shopkeeper, that shopkeeper is a man. Or you add a guard, that guard is a man. I think that’s just really ingrained in our culture.”

In particular, the gabby comedic sidekick is almost always male and gets the bulk of the memorable lines: think Mushu in Mulan, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and Olaf in Frozen.

Speaking of Frozen, the research found newer princess films are better at giving lines to men and women equally: In Tangled, women have 52 percent of the lines, and in Brave they have 74 percent. Despite double the princesses, though, Frozen backslides, with male characters taking 59 percent of the lines.

The good news is that classic Disney princess films featured more dialogue focused on looks, according to the Washington Post. More than half of the compliments that women received — 55 percent — had to do with their appearance. Only 11 percent had to do with their skills or accomplishments.

In the renaissance period princess films from the 1990s, about 38 percent of the compliments given to women had to do with their looks, while nearly a quarter centered on their abilities or deeds.

In the latest group of princess movies – The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen — women for the first time are more likely to be praised for their skills or achievements than for their looks.

Considering the number of repeat viewings that these movies receive from impressionable children, especially girls, the way they use words should not be taken lightly. Words have power.

Jessica Chastain appears in "The Martian." 20th Century Fox photo

Jessica Chastain appears in “The Martian.” 20th Century Fox photo

Quick hitters

Jessica Chastain launches production company. Jessica Chastain has launched Freckle Films, a new production venture, and inked a first look overhead deal with Trudie Styler and Celine Rattray’s transatlantic financing-production banner Maven Pictures, according to Deadline. The two companies have already optioned two books: The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister and Camille Pagan’s novel Life and Other Near-Death Experiences.

Plus, Deadline reports that Chastain is in early talks to star in the title role of Molly’s Game, a film version of Hollywood “poker princess” Molly Bloom’s memoir that Aaron Sorkin is adapting and that Mark Gordon is producing with Amy Pascal.

Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson added as mathematicians in Hidden Figures. Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson will co-star Fox 2000’s “Hidden Figures,” according to Variety.

The studio has been developing the adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s upcoming book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, which will be published by HarperCollins in September.

The story centers on Katherine Johnson (Henson), a brilliant African-American mathematician who, along with her colleagues Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, served as the brains behind the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The three women all gender, race and professional lines on the mission. Spencer will play one of the three mathematicians, too.

St. Vincent director Ted Melfi is attached to direct and produce the film along with Chernin Entertainment and Donna Gigliotti of Levantine Films.

The 15th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival issues call for entries. The 15th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival, presented by The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links Inc., has opened its call for entries. All films must be produced, written or directed by a female filmmaker of African descent, and must have been completed on or after June 1, 2010.

The film is set for May 7. Submission deadline is March 18. For more information, click here.

-BAM

 

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