Role of Women in the Movie Industry

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Roleof Women in the Movie Industry

Roleof Women in the Movie Industry

Theinfluence of technology in art and the entertainment industry hadmade film one of the most important and phenomenon art in the modernworld. Film and other related forms of art, such as music, have ahuge global influence on the modern society. Hollywood is consideredto be the art of the United States film industry. However, with theincreased popularity of Hollywood films outside the United States,Hollywood influence in the society is global. The culture of themodern society is influenced by Hollywood films. While other aspectsof the modern society are becoming more diverse, it can be arguedthat the film industry lack adequate gender diversity. In otheraspects of the society such as workplaces or other forms of art (forexample, literature), there are an increased percentage of womenplaying a critical role. This is not the case when the film industryis considered. For example, Disney is one of the largest brands inthe film industry. Despite the large number of films produced byDisney, none of them is directed or written by a woman (Li, 2014).Numerous Hollywood movies and films are produced and watched aroundthe world. The basic question is when did you watch a movie directedby a woman? When did you watch a movie with the main theme centeredon a woman? When did you watch a movie whose main character is awoman? When did you watch a movie written by a woman? Sadly, majorityof answers to these questions would be negative. Despite this, womenplay an important role in the Hollywood film industry.

Comparedto other forms of art such as painting, sculpture and literature,film is a relatively new form of art. This is due to the hugeinfluence of technology in the film industry. As a result, theHollywood film industry has boomed in the technology boom experiencedin the last one century. The golden age of the Hollywood filmindustry dates back to the 1930s, during the great depression. Thisperiod was characterized by changing role of women in the society,where women in the United States were assuming social rolestraditionally considered to be men roles. Therefore, the socialtransformation and advent of Hollywood films led to a large number ofwomen in the film industry. Hollywood films became a powerful toolthrough which women were able to portray their images. However, it isimportant to note that even before the Hollywood golden age womenplayed an important role in the film industry. For example, in theearly 20thcentury, women played the role of scenarists (Li, 2014). Due to thenature of the society, these women were unable to exploit theirposition in the film industry to aggressively promote feminism.Additionally, female writers and filmmakers in the early 20thcentury adopted a different approach compared to the modern films.They adopted the Victorian convections of a role of a woman in thesociety, although they were more progressive. As a result, truewomanhood was visible in the films that focused on female charactersor womanhood. For example, the films emphasized on the virtues of agood woman such as being pure, piety and submissive. Additionally,women characters in these films did not challenge men characters, butrather enticed them (Li, 2014).

Itcan be argued that in the early 20thcentury, women played a more active role in the film industry. Someart historians have argued that women dominated the industry. Before1930, there were over thirty women who acted as film directors. Thiswas the highest in the history of the industry, where women directorswere considered to be better than men. Some of the most visiblefemale figures in the industry include Lois Weber and Alice guy.These women had a huge influence in the Hollywood film industry dueto multiple positions they held, including authorship, directing,producing and owning production companies. However, when Hollywoodtransited to the sound era, the situation changed significantly. Thedominant role of women in the film industry declined significantly.Historians have identified several reasons why the role of women inHollywood declines as the film industry transited to the modern formsof drama. It has been argued that women are better novelists, whichexplains why the flourished in the early 20thcentury and disappeared as the Hollywood industry adopted drama basedfilms. Another reason that can explain the declining role of women inthe Hollywood film industry is the unwillingness of men to partnerwith women. Men preferred working with other men which literallypushed women out of the industry. As a result, a large number of keywomen in Hollywood became irrelevant (Lauzen, 2012).

Accordingto Li (2014), there are two theories that can be used to explain thedeclining role of women in Hollywood in the 20thcentury as the industry progressed. The human capital theory is basedon the traditional role of women in the society. This theory arguesthat women did not focus on filmmaking, since they were preoccupiedwith taking care of their families and bearing children. Since filmmaking is an art that is learned over a period of time, they did nothave a chance to perfect their skills. Additionally, socialstructures give men more opportunities to get advanced education andget involved in the film industry. The discriminatory theory arguesthat film producers discriminate women in hiring where they prefermen over women. These factors, among others significantly contributedto the fading role of women in the Hollywood film industry (Li,2014).

Inthe late 20thcentury, women liberation movement which resulted into numerouschanges in the social structure and view of women in the society hadan impact on Hollywood film industry. The movement focused onpromoting gender equality in all aspects of life. Like many otherindustries in the world, the male dominated film industry was acenter of focus. Despite these changes, women are stillunderrepresented in the Hollywood film industry, where male dominanceis still persistence in the 21stcentury (Dutt, 2014). Women are underrepresented in the lead role inmajor Hollywood industry. For example, in 2011, only 25 percent ofleading roles in 172 top Hollywood films were claimed by women. Thismeans that one out of four leading roles in the modern films isclaimed by women actors. This is despite women representing more thanhalf of the United States population, and the fact that a woman rolecannot be assumed by a man. The situation is worse if the woman rolecan be replaced by a man. Producers and directors in Hollywood arepredominantly male. For example, in 2011 women directly only fourpercent of the top films in Hollywood. Statistics indicate that womenface more challenges in claiming key roles in film productioncompared to minorities in the society. Although the figures remainrelatively low, there are an increased number of women writers in theHollywood film industry. In all genres of Hollywood films, women areunderrepresented while male actors, directors, producers, and writersdominate the scenes (Hunt et al, 2014).

Anotherimportant role of women in Hollywood is how women are depicted inHollywood films. Hollywood films are used to communicate maledominance and sexist ideologies in the patriarchal society.Generally, women are portrayed as source of sexual pleasure. This isevident from the large number of Hollywood films where women displaytheir curvy figures, mainly to entertain men. While some analystswill argue that this is the basic role of women in the modern films,others have argued that the representation of women in the media isoppressive. This is mainly because while men are adopting leadingroles in major Hollywood films, women are adopting the role of visualaccessories (Durbin, 2011). Women in modern films are viewed assexual objects mainly due to the type of clothing, and body type andshape emphasized in the film. Therefore, while there is no doubtthose women continue to make waves in Hollywood film industry, genderbias and misrepresentation is very evident. The cultural and socialroles of women in the society have changed significantly, but thestory of a woman has not changed (Durbin, 2011).


Durbin,K. (2011). Theallure of beauty: women in Hollywood.New York: Assouline.

Dutt,R. (2014). Behindthe curtain: women’s representations in contemporary Hollywood.[email protected]/research/mediaWorkingPapers/MScDissertationSeries/2013/msc/112-Dutt.pdf

Hunt,D. et al. (2014). 2014Hollywood Diversity Report Making sense of the disconnect.

Lauzen,M. (2012). “Where are the film directors (who happen to be women)?”QuarterlyReview of Film and Video,vol. 29, pp. 310-319.

Li,D. (2014). “Grand Hotel: Portrayal of Women in Golden AgeHollywood”. InternationalJournal of Social Science and Humanity,Vol.4, No.4, pp. 303-308.

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