It has been said that the entertainment industry is one of the final fronts left in the battle for gender equality. The division of pay between both genders can be seen most prominently, and the creation of film breeds gender as well as racial discrimination. The discrepancy is based mainly on age old stereotypes, yet something curious has been happening in film making recently. The percentages of women working on films on and off camera has begun to decline since the late nineteen-nineties. According to the New York Film Academy, “Women buy 50% of movie tickets sold in the U.S.”. So why, if the purchasing of movie tickets is an even split, does the film industry seem to be so far behind in gender equality?
There had been speculation made that the gender imbalance was beginning to even out with the production of strong female characters such as Katniss Everdeen in the "Hunger Games", Black Widow in "The Avengers" and "Captain America: Winter Soldier", or, surprisingly Merida in "Brave". When even Disney, a company known for its portrayal of traditional gender roles (see "Snow White", "Sleeping Beauty") starts making the leap toward women's empowerment, the shift in the industry becomes clear. One large factor in the decline in women’s production of film, specifically as directors, is the struggle they face financing their films.
With society still laced with a lower view and standing of women, many of the prominent males in the industry find it difficult to accept or fully turn power over to a female. Gender roles and stereotypes have drilled it into the common psyche that women cannot be trusted with money, cannot be trusted with a large role in the workplace, or handle themselves emotionally in the work environment. While these stereotypes are being defied everyday, the years of acceptance and submission of the female population has done lasting damage.
Another key player in the lack of women in film would be how women are perceived on screen. When women are so sexualized and manipulated on screen, why would a women feel compelled to work with the people who created such content? Some women may take it as a challenge to change the way women are viewed in the industry, but others may be unwilling to enter what they see as a potentially hostile environment.
As time goes on, and gender equality gains more ground, it is hoped that the sexualization of women on screen would decrease. However this has not been the case. In fact, according to the New York Film Academy “...female teenager with nudity has increased to 32.5% from 2007 to 2012.” With the statistics growing more grim, it is clear that a rapid change needs to be made in the industry.
There is a shred of hope building however. While the increase in women’s involvement behind the scenes of movies is still dangerously low, it still exists. Women such as Kathryn Bigelow (Director of "The Hurt Locker" and the first female director to win an Academy Award), Ava Duveray (First female to win best director at Sundance Film Festival), Diablo Cody (female screenwriter who won an Academy Award for "Juno"), and Kathleen Kennedy (female producer with movies such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "E.T.", "Jurassic Park", and "Sixth Sense") set an incredible example for young women, breaking a gap in the male dominated industry. With more females behind the scenes, we see an increase in the gender balance on screen, but we are still a long way off from complete balance.
While both men and women on screen get paid exorbitant amounts, there is a huge leap between salary based on gender alone. As can be seen on the chart provided by the New York Film Academy above, eight out of ten of the highest paychecks go to men, with only Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence breaking in in the third and tenth spots respectively. The NYFA speculates this is due to the number of movies they took part in in 2014, rather than a significant increase in pay.
Many of the men and women on this list have starred alongside each other, such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson in "The Avengers", with Johansson also taking part in "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "Lucy" during this time. With two additionally movies, it would be assumed that Johansson would be paid more, yet we still see a huge margin of difference between Downey Jr., who takes the top slot, Hemsworth, who falls into place at number six, and Johansson who finds herself at thirteen. While Hollywood pays its actors and actresses an obscene amount, they certainly don’t go about it fairly.
Unfortunately, with no legislation having been passed about women being payed the same amount as men (according to the White House Correspondents on equal pay, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man earns), which in itself is archaic, Hollywood may pay the genders as they please. This, along with the difficulty woman directors have acquiring funding for their films, adds up to a huge monetary factor in gender inequality.
In order to reach equality in the film industry, there must either be an increase in pay for women, or a decrease in pay for men. This may be one of the leading factors that so many figures in the industry have been dragging their feet toward change. Their monetary salaries far outweigh their want for equality.
The fact of the matter is, men remain more valued in the film industry than women do. Society has taught the creators of film, that men are more capable than women, which they then display in their movies. Gender Inequality remains a vicious cycle that makes both men and women its victims, with men being forced to absorb and accept this bias, and women being forced to endure the consequences.
It seems unrealistic to assume that all people will accept a gradual change in the industry, what with so many large paychecks and reputations tied to the very foundation of the gender gap. However, the entertainment industry plays a key factor into the rest of the world. It has a significant impact on the younger generations, providing them with information and understanding from an early age.
Disney, for example, has taught in the past that the princess must be saved by the prince. There was no concept of a strong female protagonist during the creation of the very early Disney movies, with only the villains at times playing a dominant female role. In recent years, Disney has adapted to the changes in society, creating self-sufficient women such as Merida from "Brave", or Anna from "Frozen". Such adaptations need to be adopted by the rest of the industry in order to make a significant impact however.
Marvel, for example, remains one of the steadfast opposers to change, resisting the creation of a strong woman protagonist in the form of a Black Widow movie. They also have a significant lack of merchandise for their female characters. A steady change must be seen in companies such as Marvel, if gender equality is to make any progress in the film industry. Without it, feminists will continue to run into an iron wall without any way to achieve their goal; equality for both genders, whether that be in salary, ratio of women to men, or portrayal of either sex.