One of my greater disappointments as a parent has been that my kids don't like movies. There's time for that to change, of course. They're only 12, 8 and 4 years old. But way back when I was pregnant with my first daughter, rubbing my belly, watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and thinking how I couldn't wait for her to see a young girl kicking so much ass, I sort of figured going to movies would be our mother-daughter thing. It's not.
There was a time when the theater and the story lines were too loud and dark for my daughter, but that's no longer an issue. She doesn't want to go to the movies because she says nothing sounds good. Why not? No girls.
She's right. I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but, with very few exceptions, movies are written about and for boys. Studio executives know females put up with it, and they don't believe the reverse is true for men and boys—that they'll see movies about women and girls. So we get movie lists like this that I pulled from Yahoo!'s movie page:
Despicable Me 2 (two main monsters are male, two of the six-member cast are female)
Sure, I had an unusually good run the lead-up to the summer: Frances Ha, Stories We Tell, Love Is All You Need and Before Midnight (the last two starred men as much as women, but the roles were equal in terms of story line and screen time).
With the exception of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it's pretty clear the rest of the summer is for men and boys. Yeah, I know there's a new Kristen Wiig movie coming out. But also ready for release is The Way Way Back, a coming-of-age story about a boy. And, Boys of Summer about ... boys. Of summer.
The sheer number of man/boy stories isn't exactly the problem. It's that there are so few about girls and women. What do the missing female characters say to women—and more importantly, girls!—about the perception of females in society?
This isn't just an American filmmakers problem, either. It's worldwide. But what exactly are those numbers? Geena Davis, of Thelma and Louise fame and also the first female president of the U.S. on TV, has joined up with a U.N. women's agency and the Rockefeller Foundation, to put numbers to what we all know is a huge disparity in film. U.N. Women will look at the top-grossing films out of Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. They'll ask whether girls' and women's stories being told. And how vastly do male characters outnumber female ones worldwide?
Davis, whose foundation has looked at Hollywood's female problem for several years, told the Associated Press that a lack of female stories isn't just about too little work for female actors. It's about the message it sends to entertainment consumers. Children are being taught that girls and women "don't take up half of the space in the world," she says.
"Media images have an enormous impact on children's self-esteem and aspirations," Davis said in a statement. "This is why we decided to launch a global gender in media study: If girls see it, they can be it." Pardon my self-interest and bad paraphrase, but if my girl can see it, she can see it with me.