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FILM: The Fempire Is Not Enough

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For the past few years they have been thought to symbolise a new super-elite. The four women writer/directors Diablo Cody, Dana Fox, Lorene Scafaria and Liz Meriwether, with their self-appointed title of the ‘Fempire’ appeared to represent somewhat of a sea change from Hollywood old-guard. But despite their very prominent and vocal existence, a recent report suggests that these women are something of an anomaly in the film making process.

This year’s ‘Celluloid Ceiling’ study – an annual survey of women in film makes for sobering reading. With just 18% of women occupying top jobs in the top 250 grossing films of 2011, the report is a bleak reflection on the industry. And the stats get worse.

Since 1998 the number of female directors has halved, with 2011 seeing just 5% of women leading the helm of the year’s most commercially successful films. The most successful of those was Jennifer Yuh, the director of King Fu Panda 2 – a film which is as gender neutral as they come.

The study also revealed that women accounted for only a disappointing 14% of writers, 18% of executive producers, 25% of producers and 4% of cinematographers.

For an industry which has always seemed to hold up the libertarianism ideals of freedom and equality, the results are wholly disappointing.

When Kathryn Bigelow’s won the much revered Best Director Oscar in 2009, it seemed to imply that women could, and finally had made a sizable impression in the film making process. But just under three years later, the figures seem to suggest that this simply has not happened. Bigelow’s win seemed like a grand victory when she became the first female to win the award and only the fourth woman nominated in the category in its then 82-year history, but now it seems that a distant memory, a blip, a glitch on the charts that has been largely forgotten.

But these damming statistics regarding women behind the camera are not the most alarming we have seen of late; last year researchers at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism found that in the top 100 films of 2009 32.8% of 4,342 speaking characters were female and 67.2% were male. This number was identical to 2008’s output. So not only are women poorly represented in the integral roles of the Hollywood machine, they are poorly represented on-screen to cinema going audiences, of which are equally represented 50/50 by men and women.

So what is wrong with the Hollywood system and why are women so poorly represented in all areas? Is it a matter of Hollywood still being predominantly an ‘old boys club’? The fact that the women of the ‘Fempire’ have formed and been so vocal about their alliance perhaps goes some way to reflect that there is a very real divide.

In February 9, the Athena Film Festival in New York will award the ‘Fempire’ a plaudit for their work as women in film. Is it well deserved? Yes. Is it enough? Certainly no.


Written by because140charactersisnotenough

February 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

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