Geena Davis Says There’s Been Zero Progress in Female Representation in Media

Geena Davis Says There’s Been Zero Progress in Female Representation in Media

-This is really impressive. You started, independent
of this documentary, a research institute, yes?
-Yes. -To study gender in media.
-Yes. -What gave you that idea and how do you go about
starting something like that? -Right. I didn’t know,
but it was because when my daughter was a toddler, I sat her down to watch preschool shows
and videos and things, and the very first thing
I watched, I noticed there were
far more male characters than female characters. And I thought, you know,
in the 21st century, surely by now
we should be showing kids that boys and girls
share the sandbox equally. And it was in everything. And — And then,
just like I said, I did — In that clip, I didn’t intend
to make it my life’s mission. But since nobody
was noticing it, I decided
I’m going to get the data, and then I can go
directly to the creators and share it with them
in a private way, you know, in a friendly way. “You didn’t know this, but…” And — But wow. And they were horrified and — -Because they genuinely thought
it had changed, yeah? -They absolutely, definitely
thought it was different. And very often —
It was weird ’cause very often they would name a movie
with one female character as proof that gender inequality
was fixed, and it was because
it was an important character. -Right.
-Like, there have been people that say,
“Well, there’s been Belle.” So now everything
is completely different now that we’ve had Belle. -They were like, “Yeah.” “You had to have a Beauty. Don’t pat yourself
on the back so hard.” What about — How’d you get
involved in the documentary? -So, Tom Donahue, the director, had been working on it
for a little while, actually. He had —
He was inspired to do this from his own experiences of figuring out
that he was a feminist and realizing that men have to be part of the solution
to this problem. So he’d been shooting it
for a while and then heard
about my research. He just said, “I really
want to get some
research in this thing.” And he heard about
my institute and — And I came on board, and so — -And, so, the title of
“This Changes Everything” is personal to you because
it’s the sort of thing you were hearing
after “Thelma & Louise,” after “A League of Their Own.” And what was it —
Why were you hearing that and what made you want to make
it the title of the documentary? -So, you know, when
“Thelma & Louise” came out, it caused a big stir, and it
was in the press everywhere, but a lot, a lot of commentators said, “This will
change everything. Now there’s gonna be so many
movies with female stars.” Because it hit —
struck such a nerve. And then after
“A League of Their Own,” it was like, “There’s gonna be
so many more sports movies with women.” And we know how many of those
have come out. -Yeah.
-The past 25 years. So, uh — But I believed it.
It sounded great. And I go, “Yay.
I got to be in a movie that’s changing everything?
That’s so awesome.” And then nothing. And, uh, then nothing.
And nothing. But then every five years or so,
something comes out. “Hunger Games” comes out,
whatever. “Well, now
everything is different now.” And it never is. -And basically, your data shows,
certainly in the role — when you look at something
like female directors, it’s about as bad
as it’s always been, even though,
I think if you ask people, they would say because of,
you know, “Wonder Woman” or whatnot, they’d think,
“Oh, no, it’s better now. It’s probably close to 50/50.” -There has been none progress.
It is like — -Now, that’s a data term
you’re using there. -Yes.
-Yeah. Okay. Gotcha. That’s very scientific. -I sometimes use
technical terms. I’m sorry. You couldn’t even say, “Well, in
500 years, we’ll reach parity.” Because there’s none — –
-It’s so incremental. -There’s nothing.
There’s no progress at all. It’s not even glacial. -You sort of — One of
the things you point out is gender bias
is often unconscious. And is that one of the things
you try to do both with your documentary
and your research, is that if there’s maybe
just a consciousness around it, that would be the way
that it would change? Because, obviously, as you point
out, a lot of people, you know, probably good-minded people
are walking around thinking progress is happening. -Yes, right, exactly.
Well, here’s what I think. I think I figured out that for
the on-screen representation, the data really is the magic
key, because they had no idea. I mean, they knew they’re making fewer movies with
a female lead character, but when you talk about
the body of the movies nearly empty of female presence,
they’re like, “Wow. What did I do?
Why did I do that?” And so they want
to make the change, but behind the camera seems like a completely
different problem because everybody
has known for decades how few female writers,
directors, and producers
there are. And nobody said,
“What? What am I doing? I must change this.”
-Yeah. -“I’m shocked.” You know. They’re like,
“No, I know I don’t hire women. I’m probably going to
keep doing that.”


100 thoughts on “Geena Davis Says There’s Been Zero Progress in Female Representation in Media”

  • Geena Davis has a whole research institute to study and research all of this, but just watch trolls say she's delusional…

  • in the 1930's and 40's , ( which was the golden age of Hollywood ) , the major movies , the ' A list ' movies were almost all ' women's pictures ' or what's now called ' chick flicks ' and unfortunately in most of these great movies the male roles were nothing more than background players ! SO GROW UP , AND GET A MORE IMPRESSIVE FRAME OF REFERENCE !!

  • Here is the issue that people dont understand. And no i am not a feminist or anything stupid. But i can imagine that what it comes down to is money? Does she have data that we can see in order to see how a movie with lets say mostly female cast does financially vs the norm currently… its all good and well to say women this and women that, but in the end it all comes down to how much money they gona make, and if its not worth the money, then whos fault is that? not the people making the movies! its the same with female vs male sports. More men are into sports and wana watch it, so there is more money in it. How about the new age of esports? dont see many woman all over the place as top competitors? why because well its mainly watched by men. So the money comes and goes to the men competing. I think in the end woman wana complain but they are not looking at the "DATA" as this Geena wants to point out. Sadly its about one thing and one thing only, and that is money. If we can make more money with male stars, then that is what we gona do? I am not saying this is right, i am saying thats business!

  • Why am I never surprised that folks who claim to be "numbers people" or "leaders" have no room in their brains left for imagination or even to notice something as simple as gender equality, where (at the time) a small time actor has to address monumental issues.
    Though it does line up with the current economic inequality in the United States, so those numbers folks must be all about themselves, and that is not a team mentality that rings true to our country's name, "United".

  • As we’ve all found out over the last couple years, films apparently ARE made for specific demographics. We know this because it is now known blacks want black
    movies, trans want trans movies, gays want gay movies, Chinese want Chinese movies, Latinos want Latino movies, whites want white movies, etc etc. Although I do personally enjoy Jordan Peels black horror movies.

    So, give more money to women so they can make more films FOR women. I’m fuckin sick of hearing about it now. 🤢

  • The world needs more women with the courage to stand up against female oppression, like Geena Davis!! What a fabulous powerhouse!! #StandTogether

  • Pointing out the issue is only half the problem.
    Getting excellent female writers to develop successful screenplays and teleplays with female leads is the other half of the problem. Otherwise, it’s just more quota developed projects that fail to achieve profitability. Forcing agenda driven projects that lack quality will only serve to further the argument that such motivations do not make money. This will not happen “overnight”. It will take decades for up and coming female writers, directors, and producers to achieve some level of parity. The Last Jedi, the new Ghostbusters, and the new Oceans 8 fail creatively not because they had female leads but because they were poorly written films.

  • Melanie O'Hara says:

    Not so! I watch kids programs on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Nickaloadian with my grandkids with loads of strong, primary, females characters. 🤷‍♀️

  • moiraine_damodred says:

    had the privilege of meeting this woman backstage at one of her talks in KC.
    a lovely human doing vital work for the entertainment industry.
    so disappointing to have fallen on deaf ears

  • justPlainOl'CommonSense says:

    If a man wants to make a movie without women hes fucking allowed to.
    You are getting butt hurt because your kid watched cartoons and they had more boys than girls? Probably because more men like cartoons than women.
    Fucking white people problem.

  • Well if we think about the biggest Female characters in media right now. Arguably Rey from Star Wars or Black Widow from Marvel.

    The first shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to what women actually struggle through and how to portray them as characters with well rounded traits and flaws instead of a perfect being who easily overcomes all challenges.

    The second gets hardly any screen time and her "super emotional" death got yawns from my theater. So no one even cares that she is there when she is overshadowed by God like beings.

    Even Korra required several seasons to smooth out an "in your face" attitude and show her some damn humility.

    There are only a handful of modern heroines with an overall net positive reception, and that's a problem.

  • Some ignorant trolling if ppl want to hate maybe try educating yourself about gender inequality first because its a historical documented FACT

  • Zaroff's Trophy Room says:

    Superb, intelligent person. But i was expecting her to converse with Seth Brundle . This is not Brundle.

  • Drew Lovelyhell says:

    Quality is more important than quantity.
    Having every film populated by 50% token females is pointless.
    We need well written, positive female representation.
    If you're worried about your kid's education, maybe don't rely on television?
    The real world is full of female role-models for them to see firsthand.

  • So, despite the occasional 'This'll change everything, no really, this time it'll stick' moment, gender equality is progressing at exactly the same rate as gun control. Great job, America.

  • The last time I paid any attention to the phrase "This changes everything." , was when "The Joy Luck Club" came out. I just knew Hollywood was going to make more Asian or Chinese American starring movies because it proved there was money to be made. But instead I learned there's a follow-up phrase: "That was just a fluke.". Black movies, Asian movies female led movies, etc. were all dismissed as flukes so there was no reason to make any more.

  • truthfully,
    the gop&mafiaDon/pricPence syndicate will create chaos&coups4any women challenging their monopoly as clearly as history demonstrates like in the current migration/borderWar (Y)

  • Let's not forget quality over quantity, as well. For every decent female character in media, there are a few dozen two-dimensional, fanservice-y, plot device ones.

  • I'm not sure I could stomach a John Wick movie where, of all the random no-named henchmen he kills, half of them are female…

  • What is really funny to me is that all i did in my statement was point out the other side of the coin (most likely) but because i am not directly siding (and i actually am – I do feel women are obviously still getting screwed over) with women i must be a feminist. This is the problem with people in general. You read or hear just what you want to hear. You dont wana look at the facts or have a conversation. You just wana get angry and be stupid about everything. I just watched the movie "the hustle" and i believe that was most likely one of the best comedy movies i have ever watched and its a dominantly female cast (not just 2 random women having a conversation not about men for a few seconds). Anne Hatheway is just awesome! So yes i would love to see so much more, but i dont just expect it to happen and i think we all know why. So we need to address why its happening and not just go on about that it is.

  • Women are too emotional and too much of a liability. When you hire a woman, you open yourself to litigation and must give her the extra PAID time off that you wouldn't have to give a man because of "feminine issues". It's simple math as Geena should know.

  • If people aren't going to spend their hard earned cash to go watch female led movies then maybe your institute should seriously consider employing someone with some brains and a little bit of common sense. You are in the entertainment business love and if you are incapable of producing a product that has commercial broad appeal then that is hardly the fault of men. There has been many movies that were female funded, written, directed and they failed because the average joe on the street doesn't want what you are offering. it's not their 'fault' it's yours.

  • Well that will happen when you have over represented male writers. Its easier to write a character you identify with more. Hsts why writers are often like 6 whites 6 blacks to help write for a show. Its not like its "The Media" you just need to diversify any given writing staff.

  • truly most female characters are dumb, but then most movies are dumb…. capitalism is about making money, not producing art, and with predatory directors and film companies requiring women to prostitute themselves…. these are not usually people who are trying to have a positive impact on culture

  • Most female are not good actors; most of the great women actresses are older, and the younger is not up to par, in my opinion! You shouldn’t put any women in a lead role, just to even the playing field; your not doing them any favor if you do!

  • Nothing to it but supporting as many films as possible – even obviously poor ones – with multiple women front and center and/or as creative voices. Only by doing so for as long as possible will anything change.

  • Geena has been trying so hard for her entire career to create progress and films like A League of Their Own and directors like Penny Marshall are so needed in today’s world but they’re not getting made. I’m glad she’s continuing to highlight these disparities.

  • RoadScholarComics says:

    Interesting interview and obviously equality is needed. Only one observation about “numbers”… these “numbers” guys didn’t notice the inequality but is it really about numbers? Does every movie need the same number of women and men equally.? That would be become obvious and predictable right away and lastly, boring. Some stories have more men, some stories have more women, that’s the interesting part of stories, when they are varied and different.! It’s called art.! Equality: YES.! Equality when it’s forced to not offend anyone: anti-art and just plain boring. 🤷🏽‍♂️

  • Troll alert:
    Max rav (Yes…a troll coward hiding behind the veil of anonymity) is flooding the comments section with two vacuous arguments.
    1. That women do not have equal representation because the market won't support it. Ignoring the fact that we boys still own everything and thus control the finances.
    2. That women lack the talent and therefore don't deserve equality. Ignoring that one of the badass action actors from the 90's, Linda Hamilton, isn't offered roles anymore as she is in her 60's while Bruce Willis still is.

    Take your mommy issues somewhere else, max.

  • Yep, trying to reverse millions of years of evolution isn't going to change any time soon. Especially since most women aren't really trying to reverse it. Women still prefer for alpha males, and ignore the poor ones. So is it any surprise that men still prefer pretty women instead of ugly ones whose primary 'attraction' is having a good job? Men want pretty women, women want successful men. Nope, not changing any time soon.

  • Well there are countless tv shows centered around female characters now… Handmaid's Tale, Westworld, Killing Eve, The Crown, GOT… just to name the most popular of them. Representation in movies though is not that far yet… but things are obviously changing. I think Geena is a little bit over dramatic about it.

  • But like what’s the end goal? When will we know we’ve made progress to an equally represented point? At what number is it the right number? Can someone please help me with this?

  • I think it may be that women aren’t hiring other women to do this once they get to the top. That’s what’s holding this back!

  • Women need to get over themselves.
    Your Physical capabilities are extremely limited your not men's equal in any regard and trying to compete with us you look glaringly stupid.

  • A simple test for equality. Three simple criteria:
    1. The movie has more than two females in it with speaking roles.
    2. They speak to each other at some point in the movie.
    3. They speak to each other about something that doesn't have to do with a man, or a male character.

    Barely any movies pass. Of the last 10 movies you watched, how many did? Unless you watch a lot of horror movies, I guarantee the ratio was fewer than 4/10. Meeting these criteria doesn't even suggest that the women in the story are important to the plot; just that for a moment, they didn't exist as vehicles to talk more about the men.

    Now switch the criteria around (minimum of 2 male characters, who talk to each other at some point, about something other than a woman) and see how many movies you can find which fail!

    Posted this as a reply somewhere too, but felt like the Bechdel Test could use some more attention…

  • I am a fan of Geena Davis and I have been for years. What she's doing is very admirable and it's a great step for women. However, I respectfully disagree with her when she says there has been zero progress. Progress has been made, but there are still a ways to go. There are more women who are directing, producing and starring in films than ever before. There are a lot more women who have become News Anchors in the mainstream press and other women who have moved up into executive tier positions running these networks and so forth. The point is there has been a significant shift in our culture with acceptance of women in leadership, but there is still a disproportionate amount of men to women serving in leadership positions. Progress is not only meant to be achieved, but also, it's meant to be continuous.

  • omg, this is great work that Miss Davis is doing. Thank you so much. I watched that pirate movie that she was in when i was a kid and was impressed by that brave, wild female pirate that she was impersonating. but, now that i am grown up and see this interview, her work in real life is so much better, stronger, braver and so much more impressive. wouldn't it be great if we'd not only see more representations of women in movies but in general a more diverse cast, like people of all nations, genders, abilities ect. and if the movie wasn't a fuzz about "look the actors are black, female, or transgender or whatever", imagine if that was just normal, if people would get a realistic proportion of representation in movies. like, i would love a movie with a trans-character, where neither plot nor character design was just leaning on the fact that they are trans. well, i m allowed to dream.

  • WTF! Is she serious? What movies has she been watching??
    I'm all for equal pay and equal rights..but, this is getting ridiculous.
    Sounds more like there is a movement to oppress men.

  • Jordi Vanderwaal says:

    For a moment I thought "well, maybe now in 2018-2019 there's starting to be a change", but other than 1 Marvel movie with a female lead, 1 Marvel movie with male-female lead (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and a few more minore female roles in a Marvel movie (Avengers: Endgame) I haven't really seen any change in "regular" movies lately. Yes, there's been 1 huge blockbuster with a mainly black cast, another with an Asian cast, and the female lead hit (Captain Marvel), but those are just 3 movies out of thousands released every year. Maybe that now those movies are making REAL money, things will start to change? We're in a capitalist world after all (sadly).

  • Television is where the women are ruling. Orange is the New Black, Harlots, Handmaid’s Tale, GLOW. Aaaand Geena was even in GLOW this year. Movies are a lost cause. Television is the key.

  • Roberto De Los Ángeles says:

    I don’t know what it is about Gina Davis, but I remember being totally in love with her in the late 80s, as a 9 year old boy! It’s so good to see her working in a high profile roll again!

  • Movies, television and their derivatives are not so much about entertainment or telling a story anymore. This is just checking off notches on a list and another way to dictate things to us. By her new logic, I have to wonder if A League of Their Own would have made the cut.  
    If this argument isn't enough to convince you that it is a bad idea to get Geena Davis as a consultant for movies. Consider this, this was the lead in Cutthroat Island. The movie that bankrupted and destroyed an entire movie studio.

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