Here’s another article from the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight. In the article, they dig deeper into the dollar and cents against Hollywood’s gender bias and exclusion in front and behind the camera. In a large sample of 1,794 movies released from 1970 to 2013, using the Bechdel test, they found that only half had at least one scene in which women talked to each other about something other than a man. They also found that most films fail the first criteria, which is to have two named female characters.
Now, I don’t believe the Bechdel test to be the true determinate of gender equality in cinema, especially considering films like “Gravity” which prominently features Sandra Bullock, fails the test. But with half the planet’s population movie-going women, why are films so desperately failing a simple test that exists outside of the silver screen?
Well, the answer is simple. Hollywood doesn’t believe that films that equally feature women are profitable. Even though women purchase at least half of the movie tickets, gender-equal films just don’t make it to the screen. Hollywood is a business, a male-driven business, that will not support films that “don’t travel well”. It’s a bad situation, without an equal amount of female writers, directors, producers, etc., female characters aren’t given equal screen time, but it doesn’t matter anyway because these films rarely return on investment.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and the future of gender-equal films is progressing from the 1970s. The data did demonstrate that films containing meaningful interactions between women do better at the box office than movies that don’t, and “it may be only a matter of time before the data of dollars and cents overcomes the rumors and prejudices defining the budgeting process of films for, by and about women.”