And so it begins. The 2014- 2015 award season is upon us. As a huge fan of film and television and their accompanying ceremonies, saying I am excited is an understatement. But for me, these award ceremonies aren’t just about a bunch of Hollywood’s finest coming together to celebrate the wonderful work done the past year. They also constantly bring attention to the lack of diversity and representation in media. Therefore, one organization devoted to creating more inclusive media, The Representation Project, has prepared a campaign for this coming Monday’s Primetime Emmy Awards.
This campaign is asking people to take to social media and tweet at entertainment journalists and people covering the red carpet with the hashtag #AskHerMore along with suggested questions for women. The movement is meant to showcase the ways in which the media addresses men and women differently on the red carpet, asking women mostly about their appearance as opposed to their work.
Because the issue of female representation has been discussed incessantly (though there is little change to show for it), when it comes to film and television, I usually like to bring up the issues for women in media that are far less obvious. For instance, according to the The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 17% of the people you see in a group scene in a film or TV show are women. Furthermore, in family films, there is only one female character for every three male characters. Though many more movies are passing the bechdel test and female protagonists are becoming less of a rarity, a major problem with female representation in media is that movies and TV shows are teaching their audiences, children especially, that women should occupy less space and that thought becomes naturalized through continuous consumption. By the time we reach our twenties, we’ve seen enough. So the issue at hand isn’t necessarily creating more Katniss Everdeens, but changing a bus driver from male to female and writing into your screenplay that among the crowd, half of the people present are women. Easy enough.
Thelma and Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri chimed in on the conversation in an interview with Forbes when asked about how things have changed for women in film. “Well, I certainly don’t think the numbers are proportional in the amount of work that does get done,” Khouri stated. “If you look at the Writers Guild numbers, Directors Guild numbers, you’ll see that it’s not remarkably different, which is really a sad state of affairs if you’re female. Clearly there’s much more awareness about it. It’s really a matter of looking at the statistics.” One statistic to look at would be the amount of male vs. female non-performance nominations at the 2014 Academy Awards: 151 for men and 31 for women.
And what about the speaking roles women do receive on camera? According to some, they’re supporting and just dull. Olivia Wilde commented on this issue during a panel discussion by telling the story of a gender swap table read that took place for the film American Pie. “The men who joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren’t used to being the supporting cast,” Wilde recalled. “It was fascinating to feel their discomfort [and] to discuss it with them afterwards when they said, ‘It’s boring to play the girl role!’ And I said, ‘Yeah. You think? Welcome to our world!!”
Women deserve more than they are given when it comes to film and television, though the latter has become a much more welcoming place, which is one of the reasons why I’m excited to sit down and watch the Emmys. But despite my excitement, I plan on taking to Twitter on Monday to help change the way women are perceived and talked to on the red carpet. Because as some camera person is doing a pedestal shot up a woman’s dress, you’d be surprised to know that she’s actually thinking some thoughts in that pretty little head of hers.
So let’s #AskHerMore this award season. Because I’m far more interested in what Robin Wright does to prepare for her flawless performances as Claire Underwood than what her morning routine was like that day. I’m much more curious about Kerry Washington’s thoughts on playing a character who constantly questions what is moral than how many dresses she went through before she picked “the one.”(And this is not to say that designer’s shouldn’t get recognition for their work. That I’ve always been in support of.) These women who are nominated have brilliant things to say about their work and their process. If we started treating actresses on the red carpet like women worth talking to and hearing from, maybe the characters women are given to play will one day reflect the same.
Written by Samantha Gabriele