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Reel or real - The portrayal of Hollywood heroines on-screen and behind the scenes

The presence of women in the film industry has been of irreplaceable value since the first story was projected on screen. This article takes a look at the on-screen and off-screen representation of women over the years and at present day.


The Hollywood industry is nothing less than a tornado, sweeping up audiences left, right and centre. Movies are taking the world by storm, showing stories of our lives and life-changing stories. Now it is no surprise that several of these breathtaking films had noteworthy involvement of women, be it on-stage or behind the curtains. So let's dive into the data and explore the portrayal of women in showbiz.


Movie enthusiasts or not, we’ve all heard the question, “Barbie or Oppenheimer?”. Both films released on the same day, with stellar casting and depicting characters who didn’t quite know how to navigate their emotions. But the question remains.. Which one stole the show at the box office?


Why don’t we just let the figures decide?


With its earnings skyrocketing as seen in the graph, the pink painted movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, is breaking records by the minute and is expected to pass $1 billion worldwide in the coming weeks.

The phenomenal success that "Barbie" has become, is a testament of what women can achieve, in this highly competitive and rapidly changing industry.


We’ve all grown up seeing heroes on the big screen, saving the day and well… saving the heroine too. While we did have a bunch of female lead movies, in most cases, the princess needed her hefty strong man in her adventure and when women weren’t the leads, they often added to the storyline by merely being an accessory to the hero, of course wearing a tight black suit. But has that changed with time? Once again, let’s see what the figures have to say.


The line graph you see, shows the evolution of lead roles given to men and women over the last 12 years. While it starts off rough for the women in 2011, there seems to be a steady upward growth in years that follow. On the contrary male leads have experienced a significant drop from more than 70% in 2011 to almost 50% in 2019. Evidence of this growth in on-screen equality, includes iconic films such as “The Hunger Games”, “Maleficent ” and more recently, “Barbie”.


In this digital age, it is anything but fair to consider only theatrical films. With our beloved OTT platforms thriving on our bank accounts and our heavily extended screentime, it is only reasonable to let the streaming platform figures also share a few words.

The near equal distribution of lead actors in this chart is evidence for an on-screen success story. But what goes on behind the curtains?


How many of these female lead stories were actually led by women behind the scenes? The perception and representation of female movie characters may have changed, but is this the reality backstage as well? Let’s give it up once more, for the figures…


It is not quite like we expect, right? With female lead movies winning best picture and slogans like “She’s everything, He’s just Ken” covering entire cities (you were warned of my Barbie obsession at the very start of this article), you’d think there'd be just as many women running the show offscreen.


The figures being this unfavourable to women even in 2022, really does provoke thought doesn’t it? We see what we like on screen, with an equal number of male and female marvel superheroes, or with full female remakes of iconic male lead movies. However, we forget that these do not necessarily reflect reality.

The Hollywood industry is not just the stories it tells, but also the minds that bring them to life. So, It is high time that representation goes beyond just creating as many Eves as Adams. It is just as necessary that the creators also exhibit equality.


"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish", said Michelle Obama. So let us make way for women to go beyond the screen and scripts to create wonders for the world to watch.


Sources:

  • https://www.boxofficemojo.com/

  • https://socialsciences.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/UCLA-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2023-Film-3-30-2023.pdf

  • https://socialsciences.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2014-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-12-14.pdf

Written by Prashanthini Sundar



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