Davis has played some iconic female characters in her time, (“as an actor I wanted to feel challenged and, you know, play baseball rather than be the girlfriend of the person who plays baseball”), and will always be remembered as Thelma in Thelma and Louise. However, she acknowledges that those kinds of roles are few and far between for women, and that this is part of a pattern of media representation that begins with G-Rated material aimed at very young children. Davis first encountered the issue when watching TV with her daughter, so she decided to investigate further.
We raised some money, and we ended up doing the largest research study ever done on G-rated movies and television shows made for kids 11 and under. And the results were stunning.
What we found was that in G-rated movies, for every one female character, there were three male characters. If it was a group scene, it would change to five to one, male to female.
Of the female characters that existed, the majority are highly stereotyped and/or hypersexualized. To me, the most disturbing thing was that the female characters in G-rated movies wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as the female characters in R-rated movies.
And then we looked at aspirations and occupations and things like that. Pretty much the only aspiration for female characters was finding romance, whereas there are practically no male characters whose ultimate goal is finding romance. The No. 1 occupation was royalty. Nice gig, if you can get it. And we found that the majority of female characters in animated movies have a body type that can’t exist in real life. So, the question you can think of from all this is: What message are we sending to kids?
She hopes that, through raising awareness of the problem with the Writers’ and Directors’ Guild, a culture shift is on its way, and that by the time of the next study, due in 2015, “we will have seen the needle move”. Here’s hoping.
Life Imitates Art– Geena Davis in the Wall St. Journal