This Sunday is the 86th annual Oscars, a magical night where the Hollywood elite get together to celebrate themselves and be excruciatingly boring for three-plus hours. There’s one thing*, though, that Hollywood might not want to pat itself on the back for too much: This year’s lead actor nominees got, on average, 150% of the screentime of their female counterparts. Lead actresses: Getting screwed over for screentime in their own dang films.
*Plus many, many others.
The stats come courtesy of The New York Times’ Kevin B. Lee, who used the Cinemetrics website—a database of movie statistics–to determine that this year’s best actress nominees averaged 57 minutes on-screen in their films, compared to the best actors’ 85 minutes. All actors, lead and supporting, averaged 59 minutes, while the ladies got 42. Last year the average for actresses was up to 49 minutes… and the dudes got 100. And this year’s average would have been even lower for women if not for curvebreaker Sandra Bullock, who was on-screen for 87% of Gravity.
Geena Davis calls it “amazing and shocking,” which is something, because Geena Davis knows from the state of women in Hollywood, OK? And she’s shocked.
I’d be interested to see whether this holds true for other year’s Oscar nominated films, and just films in general. Something’s telling me it does. But why the gap? Yes, “institutional sexism,” but let’s get more specific. Lee offers the explanation given to him by film critic and scholar David Bordwell:
Male stars are typically the protagonists in action or goal-oriented narratives that require the viewer to follow the story through the lead’s experiences. Female stars are more typically cast in melodramas that require the lead to serve as a hub connecting different characters and subplots.
So, to use an example, Chiwetel Ejiofor is very much the center of his own story in 12 Years a Slave, but American Hustle isn’t specifically about Amy Adams. Even in Philomena, for which Judi Dench got her nom, the plight of the titular character is what sets the story going, but it’s Steve Coogan‘s character performing the bulk of the action. We see Philomena through his eyes, and her character development is pushed along by his decision to look for her long-lost son. Looked at this way, Gravity‘s Ryan Stone fills a role traditionally reserved for a male character. The story is hers, and only hers. We’re not asked to look at it through the eyes of a man.
This is a good time to remind you that people tried to convince director Alfonso Cuarón to make Gravity with a male lead. Also, may I point you to a video on Olivia Wilde discussing this very issue.
(Incidentally, after you take into account the 15% she gets of Warner Bros.’ profits for the film, Sandy B is getting at least $70 million from Gravity. If announced before, that would’ve given the annual list of highest-paid movie stars its second woman).
For the kicker, here’s Lee on Jay Cassidy, one of the editors of American Hustle:
Mr. Cassidy wagered that there wasn’t much of a gap in the screen time between the two nominated leads of his film. But Christian Bale actually has 60 minutes of screen to Amy Adams’s 46 minutes, a significant difference even in an ensemble movie. Among their supporting category counterparts, Bradley Cooper’s 41 screen minutes double Jennifer Lawrence’s 20.
That’s how insidious this is: I’d never really thought about female leads getting less screentime than male leads in their own films. Geena Davis didn’t. I’m guessing you didn’t. It didn’t occur to Mr. Cassidy in the case of American Hustle, and, as one of the editors, he knows the film pretty freaking well.
Another instance of sexism being hardwired into Hollywood. Must be a day that ends in y.
(via: Women and Hollywood)