Pop Rocks: Women Aren't Watching Movies About Women

Categories: Pop Rocks

Lots riding on this film for women
There has been quite a lot of grumbling lately about women's role in film. The issue being that there are no women in film, as of late, and it's pissing people off, although most of those people are women.

Last week Linda Holmes, blogger for NPR and one of my favorites, wrote about the complete and utter disappointing showing of women on the silver screen this summer. Holmes did some monkey math and guestimated that of the 617 movies playing her area - the Washington DC metro - 90 percent of them were about men or groups of men. Of those 617 showings, only 25 were solely about women or girls. Holmes is not the only one who has noticed this void.

Flavorwire compiled a massive list of films' best antiheros and was surprised at its own omission of women. It wasn't on purpose -- they swore -- it was for lack of women in movies who play more perplexing and deep characters. Apparently moviegoers like their female characters to be very cut and dry: they are either sluts/or not sluts.

The argument that there are too few women working in Hollywood, behind or in front of the camera, is a non-debatable issue. The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, based out of San Diego State University, annual compiles various data pertaining to the subject and released this year's a study entitled "The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scene Employment of Women in the Top 250 Films of 2012." It was discovered that in 2012, only 18 percent of directors, executive producers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 films of the year were women. The study breaks down the figures further but the numbers do not get any better; they are deplorable yet highly telling. Overall, when women were working behind the scenes, it was in documentaries, dramas or animated movies. Sci-fi, horror and action were rare for women. As sad as these numbers are, they certainly come as no surprise. The people who have the money in Hollywood are the ones who do the hiring and greenlighting and soliciting of scripts, and those people are middle-aged men. Why would they hire women, when they can hire their cigar buddies?

But there is more to it than that. Hollywood is lacking women blockbuster actresses. Think about it for a minute; there are very few. If we can take payrate as some arbitrary symbol of worth in Hollywood, Kristen Stewart was named the top-paid actress of 2013, and aside from the Twilight series, she hasn't done squat worth squat. Following her is Angelina Jolie who hasn't made a blockbuster movie since Mr. and Mrs. Smith, unless we are counting the Kung Fu Panda movies, which is where she is making bank. And after these two the list contains non-actresses like Bethany Frankel and Eva Langoria (sorry, girrrl). Meryl Streep, who might be considered one of the few stars with draw, is last on the list.

Even if we don't look at these things from a monetary viewpoint, who else is there? If we could get Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey to star in every movie ever made, maybe we'd make some feminine headway. Or not, Fey's last movie only grossed $18 million dollars with a budget of $13, that's not good for Hollywood's standards. Other big name actresses, Jennifer Anniston, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, don't make summer blockbusters. Come fall, I am sure we'll see a lot more women-centric film headed to the Oscars. But those are Hollywood "pet projects," the ones that get critical acclaim but don't make all that much money. Even small movies that do really, really well, still don't make the kind of money these producers want. Making a movie is really expensive and there are a lot of people to pay.

But, now here's where the stats get weird. According to the 2012 Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) findings, women go to the movies more than men. In 2012, the number was 52 percent to 48 percent respectively.

Wait, what? That just doesn't make any sense. Of course much of the reason that despite women being the majority of filmgoers we still see "male" centered movies is because that's all there is to see. It's an odd Catch 22. I would wager if we dug deeper, it would be noted that women see animated movies much more than men and that has a huge impact on this number; dads aren't taking their kids to see the latest Pixar pics as much as moms are. But those excuses aside, maybe women are OK with seeing less of ourselves on screen? If we were so upset about it, wouldn't we stop seeing movies?

This weekend The Heat opens up in theaters, which stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as buddy cops. This is one of the first female "buddy cop" comedies that memory serves, and these two actresses are certainly theater draws. McCarthy was the "Bridesmaid" who stole the movie, and Bullock can't seem to do any wrong as far as anyone is concerned. There are very high hopes for this flick. And when (if) it does gangbusters, all the movie critics will say, "women and movies are back!" -- despite this movie being directed by a man, it was written by a women -- and then in another six months we'll see a round of articles questioning where all the ladies are at.

I have ruminated on this issue at length and the answer is unclear to me. How do we get more movies to be made about women? Even if men don't care to see us acting like slobs or emotional wrecks or farters or anything other than sexy hunters in leather, we - us women - are the ones going to see the movies anyway! If there is any answer, it's that we have to go out and see movies starring women whether we want to or not. Bridesmaids was a blip on the screen, and we need to stop comparing everything to it. True, it grossed $288 million dollars during its run but the Man of Steel has already made $214 million in two weekends and nobody even likes it! (I am sorry, Pete Vonder Haar does).

Ladies and guys who care about this topic, let's all go out and see The Heat this weekend, whether we want to or not. Maybe it will put a bee in some Hollywood producer's bonnet that it's not just movie critics that care to see more women in film, but women who do.

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That's because no one really cares to see Melissa McCarthy in her typecast role as goofy fat girl. We get it, you can play one shtick, you're the female Jack Black. How about some range? Sandra Bullock isn't much better. We need more women like Ellen Page and others who can actually act. And I haven't heard one negative review from anyone who saw Man of Steel other than you (this is assuming you saw it, I couldn't gather from the context). And saying [women] "are the ones going to see the movies anyway," is a bit misleading at a 52-48 margin. That's not even a 5% gap, it's pretty even. More bunk journalism.


It's not just Movies, it's the vast majority of creative endeavors, from TV to Music.  Women make the bulk of the purchase decisions yet they don't support each other.

Peggy Jordana Jai Heald-Davenport
Peggy Jordana Jai Heald-Davenport

I personally LOVE them...shows and movies. It's my " girls night do my nails" cheesy time but makes me remember...I am all girlie. Same with reading chicklit books...guilty rest pleasure.

Shira McClain
Shira McClain

by making movies about women that aren't romcoms and other condescending crap, for a start.

MadMac topcommenter

Excellent article, Ms. Koenig. I always hoped for a Dune franchise--not directed by David Lynch or produced by the Sylly Fying channel. Yes, I know the first four books are sausage fests but there are strong female characters, too. The last two books are ALL women, all the time with the male characters releagated to support. Herbert managed to avoid--80% of the time anyway--the failing most mail authors fall into: the trap of writing female characters who are little more than male characters with nice hair and big obbos.

Gale Anne Herd and Kathryn Bigelow immediately come to mind as producer/directors who can make a SciFi film that doesn't sukk.  Plus I would LOVE to see actresses like Sigourney Weaver, Susan Serrandon, Gina Davis, and Debra Winger in some of those roles that are age-neutral.

For that matter, I'd like to see an other Karen Cisco movie, (not TV show, please) or Jackie Brown, (but Tarantino, me no likey). Don't even get me started on the potential for a Storm or Rogue or Shadow Cat movie. Fun stuff. 


@jsims77521 Uhh..Man of Steel has a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is not considered good, bro. 


@Abby There are plenty of good movies with "bad" reviews from Rotten. It is not the end all be all, not everyone who watches movies even uses the site. It's a niche community of film snobs, sorry that you got butt hurt over my comment.

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