Gender balance in film industry a ground-up effort

While the 87th Academy Awards came under fire for its notable lack of racial diversity in its nominee pool, another far more pervasive problem was largely ignored: gender.

While it’s true that “Selma” and its cast and crew were largely snubbed at the awards (whether the film truly deserved more nominations is an entirely valid debate), the Oscars have long been a showcase for the lack of celebrated female talent working in the industry – particularly behind the scenes. Only four female directors have ever been nominated for an Oscar, and only one of them, Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker” has ever actually won.

While the Oscars epitomize this gender issue, it would be a facile argument to pin the blame for the underlying problem on an awards show. If one were to look at the major films released every year, relatively speaking, the female presence on and off camera is sparse. According to a report compiled by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, only seven percent of the industry’s 250 top-grossing films last year were directed by women.

Similar to the issue of minority representation, gender representation needs to be built from the ground up. If the industry itself is largely devoid of female creative voices, it only follows that awards shows will be starved of gender diversity as well.

What needs to happen is concentrated, intentional decision-making on the part of big studio executives to hire female writers and directors. The independent film industry is rife with creative voices of all genders, sexualities and racial backgrounds. If Hollywood were to start mirroring that same diversity, we would begin to see an industry that more fully reflects its audiences.

With more diverse creative teams, we will start seeing more dynamic and representational stories that take on perspectives that have been slighted by the industry.

The Academy Awards are little more than a reward for grandstanding and playing one’s cards correctly in advertising. They aren’t about rewarding true creativity or vision, but rather pleasing a majority with something palatable and made well enough to be marketable. However, they are only a reflection of the industrial realities of big studio filmmaking.

The fight for equality should not waste its breath on something as vapid as the Hollywood equivalent of prom. The fight for gender, as well as racial equality in our movies, needs to be fought from the base, and then, outwards and upwards. Only then will we be able to see meaningful and lasting change reflected on theater projectors all around the country for years to come.

Andrew Allen is a sophomore majoring in communications.


Featured image courtesy ozz13x via Flickr