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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.”

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