A recent study analysing the dialogue of 2,000 screenplays confirmed a sadly predictable suspicion…
Remember that bit in The Little Mermaid when Ariel has her voice sucked out and locked in a shell? Tip of the iceberg, apparently. According to an investigation undertaken by Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels – which, unless you too live under the sea with Flounder, you’ll have heard about by now – women don’t get to speak a whole lot in movies.
Essentially, the only way you’re going to get 100 per cent of the dialogue as a girl is if you’re starring in a film about troglofaunal flesh-eating humanoids (The Descent) or a coming-of-age movie about séances and friendship bracelets (Now and Then). Even being a Disney princess won’t save you, ladies: not only do you need a tiny waist, tiara and prince to find happiness, apparently, but you also need to be prepared to give all the best lines to your male supporting cast. Not a great message to imprint on young children, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Luckily there are some powerful Fairy Godmothers in Hollywood fighting the good fight. What this study shows, though, is that there’s still a really long way to go before the movies find feminism; because even the champions of equality get silenced by scripts from time to time.
Who doesn’t love J-Law? She’s hilarious, down to earth, mates with Amy Schumer, and – as of last year – a feminist icon. When she found out she’d been paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle – after leaked info surfaced as a result of the large-scale hacking attack against Sony Pictures – Lawrence called her industry to task in an admirably honest essay on Lena Dunham’s website, Lenny.
Salaries aside, J-Law is best known for embodying Katniss Everdeen, a revolutionary heroine carrying the weight of a franchise on her lady-shoulders. Bizarrely, though, the male/female dialogue split in the The Hunger Games didn’t reflect Katniss’s starring role in the story, with a handsome 55 per cent of the words going to the boys. She may be able to overthrow a dictator, but heaven forbid Katniss be allowed to say too much.
Beatboxing champion of the HeForShe campaign and creator of her very own feminist book club, awesome Emma Watson is arguably now as famous for her activism as she is for her magic wand. And it’s just as well she’s spreading the message of gender equality outside the movie theatre. Surely, though, Hermione Grainger was one of the stars of the Harry Potter universe? The word-count seems to disagree: in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, for instance, the male characters were given a whopping 86 per cent of the dialogue. She may have been the smartest kid at Hogwarts, but that definitely didn’t translate to air-time.
Fingers crossed that our feminist trailblazer fares better in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast – in the original Disney cartoon, the girls got a Ron Weasley (that’s cockney rhyming slang for measly, obviously) 28 per cent.
Remember when Patricia Arquette used her Oscar acceptance speech as a call for equal pay? That was a great moment. As was her turn in Amy Schumer’s hilarious sketch about a woman’s Last F*ckable Day. Less great was when True Romance – Quentin Tarantino’s dark love film from the 1990s – gave the female cast (including Arquette in a starring role) only 16 per cent of the lines. Cult love interests aren’t allowed too many monologues, apparently. Arquette also revealed recently that she thinks her Oscar speech has cost her acting jobs since: so having an opinion on equality can actually tax you on all 16 per cent of your words.
Like Arquette, Blanchett used her Oscar acceptance speech to blast those people in Hollywood still “foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre, are niche experiences.” Cue fist-pumps all over the world. She also created one of 2014’s favourite GIFs when she asked a cameraman panning up from her feet on the red carpet if he gave the guys the same treatment. Seriously talented, articulated and smart, it’s not surprising she’s seen as another beacon for feminism in a historically sexist industry.
For every Carol or Blue Jasmine, though, Blanchett has also found herself in franchises that massively underrepresent women. Remember when they nuked the fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? 82 per cent of that strange reboot went to the male characters. And the Lord of the Rings trilogy didn’t fare any better, with the dialogue ranging from 86-96 per cent male. All together now: “Do you do that to the guys?”
You’ve probably seen it by now: the video cut of all non-Leia female lines from the original Star Wars trilogy – the one where all of the women who aren’t Leia get a grand total of 63 seconds’ worth of dialogue, from an overall run-time of 386 minutes. I know. The Force definitely wasn’t strong with the ladyfolk. Even the latest outing – which, with Rey and General Leia’s roles, shows a much more equal universe – is 72 per cent male. Carrie Fisher sure knows what sexism looks like, and she’s not afraid to call out the industry for treating youth and beauty like ‘accomplishments’:
Youth&BeautyR/NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS,theyre theTEMPORARY happy/BiProducts/of Time&/or DNA/Dont Hold yourBreath4either/ifUmust holdAir/takeGarys
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) December 30, 2015
Since the latest instalment, The Force Awakens, was released, she’s also taken on Hollywood’s ageism repeatedly and brilliantly. First there was the response to the flood of tweeters completely freaking out about the fact Princess Leia appeared to have aged, telling them to back off and stop hurting “all three of my feelings”:
Please stop debating about whetherOR notaged well.unfortunately it hurts all3 of my feelings.My BODY hasnt aged as well as I have.Blow us
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) December 29, 2015
And when asked if she had to think about reprising her role as Leia, she replied by saying that actresses over 40 don’t have that luxury. “I’m a female working in show business, where, if you’re famous, you have a career until you’re 45, maybe. Maybe. And that’s about 15 people.”
Please, Hollywood. Sort your stats out.