Every macho movie producer to ever say that movies about women don’t sell is now choking on those words as new reports finally prove them wrong.
The website FiveThirtyEight decided to take a serious look at how movies about women have fared in the box office over the last 20 years. Using the Bechdel test, 1,615 films were analyzed for their relationship between the prominence of women in the film, and the film’s budget and gross profits.
Time out. If you don’t know about the Bechdel test, we’ll take a minute to explain it. Coined by Alison Bechdel--famous cartoonist of the “Dykes To Watch Out For” series--the test measures female representation in film. It's rather simple--if a movie contains more than two named female characters who talk to each other at some point in the film about something other than the male characters, it passes the test. The Bechdel test doesn’t even begin to cover the strength or plot line of the female characters, but it gives us a scale to cover the basics by measuring if female character are used to add value to a film.
The data showed that films released between 1990 to 2013 that passed the Bechdel tests had a stronger return on investment than more male-based films. It also showed that films to pass the test on average had less funding. Shocker.
Now is when you might be thinking, "How hard is it to pass the Bechdel test in the first place?" This is the twenty-first century after all, girls in movies aren’t necessarily uncommon. However, some of the hardest hitters at the box office in the past few years did not pass the test (i.e The Avengers and both Hobbit films).
In a larger study of 1,794 movies released between 1970 and 2013, it was found that only half of all films had at least one scene in which women talked to each other about something other than a man. I mean, seriously. That's ridiculous.
Does this study give us hope for more women-powered movies in the future? Maybe, but it's skeptical optimism. Hollywood is seeing films staring female protagonists like The Hunger Games and Frozen grossing huge numbers, so hopefully the statistics will cause gender-bias hard heads in the industry to soften. If Hollywood is all about making money, they definitely need to take the time to seek out what the public wants to pay to see: ladies in films in stand-alone roles.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.