Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie in 'Barbie'

Despite the Success of ‘Barbie’ & More, Hollywood Still Isn’t Hiring Female Directors

Given that some of the biggest movies of 2023, such as Cocaine Bear, Barbie, and Saltburn, came from female directors, one may think opportunities in Hollywood are increasing for women. However, a recent study has found that this is not so.

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The news isn’t very surprising, as Hollywood has always been slow when it comes to inclusion. Still, some may have hoped things would be different, especially after numerous studios promised change just over two years ago. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, after being called out for its silence, Hollywood finally acted, with studios pledging millions of dollars to support social justice organizations and integrating Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) departments to foster more diverse hiring. If the industry was truly serious about its efforts, we should’ve seen a noticeable rise in opportunity for filmmakers of color and female filmmakers.

From the onset, though, there were fears that these promises from Hollywood were just PR maneuvers. These fears heightened in mid-2023 when six high-profile DEI leaders were fired or resigned from their positions, essentially wiping out all the top diversity execs at the biggest studios in one go. Many felt this was a sign of Hollywood already giving up on its diversity pledge. There’s also much fear that these studios will continue bending to the conservative agenda, as right-wingers cry “woke” every time the existence of women or minorities is acknowledged in film.

However, a recent study makes us question if Hollywood gave up on its diversity pledge or if it never even started working on that pledge to begin with.

Study concludes Hollywood’s diversity pledge was “performative”

As reported by Variety, the results of a study by USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative called out Hollywood for its performative diversity pledges. The study found that there has been no significant increase representation for marginalized groups in Hollywood since 2018. While Barbie proved to be the highest-grossing movie of 2023, it was the exception rather than the rule. Of the 116 directors behind 2023’s 100 top-grossing domestic films, just 14 were women. This means 12.1% of the filmmakers tied to the biggest films were female, which hardly differs from the 9% in 2022. It’s slightly better than the 4.5% of women directors in 2018, but meager improvement from such a depressing amount is hardly worth celebrating.

Meanwhile, the statistics get even worse when it comes to women of color. Just four of the top films in 2023 were directed by women of color. Overall, only 26 of the 116 directors hailed from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. While female representation increased slightly, the study found that virtually no progress was made in other areas of representation. Needless to say, the vast majority of opportunities in Hollywood are still going to white men. Although the study didn’t include statistics on some films released towards the end of 2023 or on some lower-grossing indie films, it still shows that Hollywood is keeping the best opportunities out of reach.

After all of these studios’ pledges, improvement in diverse hiring shouldn’t have been nearly stagnant from 2022 to 2023. There’s hope that films like Barbie will pave the way for more female filmmakers because its success proves audiences want female-led films. However, Barbie is just one film, and Greta Gerwig is just one female director. They alone cannot foster change unless Hollywood makes a concerted effort to change and entrust more than 14 women per year to helm its biggest films.

(via Variety, featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.