Gender-Neutral Oscars?

Kim Elsesser from the Center for Study of Women at the UCLA poses this question in the New York Times: Why is it considered acceptable to segregate nominations by sex, offering different Oscars for best actor and best actress?

The editorial is well worth a read. I agree with her in principle, but what of the fact that women are 51% of the population but only made up 29.9% of speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing movies of 2007? And that 83% of the directors, writers and producers of those movies were men? With so many more men snagging speaking roles — and so many more men writing, directing and producing films — women just wouldn’t have an equal shot at a gender-neutral acting award. But perhaps that’s not reason enough to keep awards gender-segregated. Thoughts?

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44 comments for “Gender-Neutral Oscars?

  1. liz
    March 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    My friend from high school, Daniel Radosh, made this same suggestion 8 years ago, also on the NYT OpEd page.

  2. March 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I think merging the awards into one would have an even worse, self-fulfilling effect. Men would win even more than their proportional (outsized) share of acting awards, because the academy is made up of biased people like the rest of society. Then, studios pushing prestige films for Oscar season would begin to reason that films with female leads don’t tend to win the Actor award, and start to tip the balance of good roles even more firmly towards men and the roles that made careers like Jessica Lange’s and Meryl Streep’s largely dried up.

  3. March 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I’ve wondered the same thing, and I wrote a bit about it on my blog a few months ago. I think trying to make that change now would probably be a massive mess, and I doubt most actors (regardless of their gender) would be pleased with a change that would result in less of a chance of winning an award at all. I wonder what it would be like if, in addition to having the gendered awards, there was some sort of third award for most outstanding performance by any actor overall, regardless of gender. As a friend pointed out when I made that suggestion before, it would, most likely, come down to a competition between the winners of best actor and best actress, which would, obviously, be redundant and probably read as a “war of the sexes,” which seems rather unproductive when I think of it that way. This is quite interesting, though.

  4. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I don’t think they should be merged but I strongly disagree with Thomas’ reasons for it. I don’t think the Academy is bias at all, otherwise they would simply have gotten rid of “best actress”, “best supporting actress”, ect.

    Your fear mongering is, in fact, the reason I don’t want to see a merger. Yes, men WOULD get more awards then women because Hollywood makes more money from their male actors, so they use them more. Women get less awards, people start crying “Sexist!”, and the waters of Equality will get more and more muddy. We need to stop seeing “sexism” everywhere, and look at some of the more underlying truths.

    It is not an issue of “They are women, screw them” for Hollywood, and a LOT more “We can make 20 million on Brad Pitt in an action movie or we can make 5 Million on a movie starting Sarah Michelle Gellar”. Hollywood -is- a business and like many things in America (sadly), the bottomline is all important.

    At least with the CURRENT system for Oscars, men AND women both get to be celebrated for what they do. Both actors and actresses get to shot for their own “best” award, and both parties get to feel as if their acting some how means something EQUALLY.

  5. March 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Now that I think about it, I don’t really know of any women directors. Not that they are not out there, but I just don’t see them featured in the public sphere. Somebody told me the other day that when she browses short indie movies online, she automatically assumes the director was male. The fact that we have those assumptions are, I’d say, indicative of the lack of true equal opportunities.

  6. Naamah
    March 4, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I think this is something tthat I would like to see come to pass someday. I think this is a thing worth working toward. I don’t think it’s right to segregate awards based on gender when there is no reason to do so.

    I also think we are nowhere near being able to do this now, today, with any sort of fairness. Hollywood is really screwed up in terms of how women interact with the movie industry. There is very good reason to continue segregating the Oscars until these issues have been addressed.

  7. PrettyAmiable
    March 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm


    hahahaha sorry.


  8. PrettyAmiable
    March 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Real response: I would also love to see a single Oscar category and I argue that some in Hollywood would actually love it (I’m thinking of phenomenal female actors like Meryl Streep), but at the very least, the number of male:female wins would likely be representative of the current 70:30 role split.

    I also want to take a moment to acknowledge what I think is faulty reasoning: I’ve never thought Oscars were terribly intimately tied to profits. Some correlation, of course, but how many of these movies won Best Picture? I want to say Titanic did, Avatar might (boo), but past that? It’s interesting to note that the vast majority of these movies are male-centric though. Hmm.

    I just really want to see Mo’Nique take one home this year, and I think if there was a gender-neutral supporting actor award, she could walk away with it too.

  9. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm


    To be fair, my comment was towards Thomas and did not include the words “All of you”. I DO believe there is sexism and that is it unfair to men and women who suffer from it. However, if we see it -everywhere-, even when sexism is not the issue but say.. GREED is, then yes that is Fear Mongering.

    CURRENTLY.. the american people pay to go see movies like ‘Avatar’ ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘2012’. And yes, most of those star men that Hollywood knows people will spend 9 dollars per ticket to see in a movie. That is -not- sexism, that is Hollywood making money. If they could make more money on movies like “WhipIt” or “Bride Wars” or “He Is Just Not That Into You”, I am sure they would make more movies.

    Hollywood use to have actresses able to do GOOD action movies. (Signourey Weaver in the Alien movies. The Long Kiss Good Night with Geena Davis as the lead role just to name two examples.) But when Hollywood gets burned with movies like Elektra, the Ju-on remake, and Aeon Flux, they do tend to be unwilling to take those risks again. Not until they think the public will part with their money on those risks.

    Also.. how has none mentioned Drew Berrymoore Directing “Whipit”? Or The Hurt Locker which is directed by a woman. Whale Rider, Thirteen, Lost in Translation, American Psycho…

    There are a LOT of female directors who go unnamed, same with a bunch of male directors if you are not James Cameron or Tim Burton or George A Romero (who of those three is the ONLY one who, imho, truly has done ground breaking work in the field of cinema.)

  10. Tlönista
    March 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I agree with Jill—if there were a gender-neutral acting Oscar, they’d just give it to men all the time. I’d actually like to see a Best Female Director/Best Male Director Oscar too; there are many talented women directors, but they get absolutely no recognition.

  11. March 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm


    I’m not sure why sexism and greed would be mutually exclusive, as you appear to be suggesting. If anything, I think that the “common sense” over what kinds of films attract viewers is totally cut through with all kinds of oppressive logics (sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist etc). It’s not just about bottomline at the cinema, there’s all kinds of assumptions about what demographics are more “valuable” than others (because of crossovers, tie-ins etc all kinds of other industries have an interest in certain kinds of films being produced)..

    Like, Brokeback Mountain made a ton of money, Oscar nominations, pop-culture ubiquity, but it didn’t inspire a flurry of high profile gay themed movies? Same with Transamerica. Why? Because of the assumption that GLBT films “don’t make money” unless they’re doled out once every five years. Whereas an action film will flop and the studios don’t go hey, let’s stop making films for and marketing to cis straight blokes.

  12. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    @ Queen Emily

    You just proved my point right there that it IS about money. They know BBM had a lot of people watching it SIMPLY because they found out it dealt with a gay issue. But if they put out a lot of them, they will not make that kind of money and the ‘novelty’ of a ‘gay movie’ will get lost. It is not an issue of ‘Gay is Bad, oh noes!” so much as ‘This is a cash cow that we can milk slowly’.

    And likewise, they know the movies that where put out that stared women in an action roll (see the above examples) flopped. Honestly, how many people do you know who are willing to risk say 10 million dollars on a female actress who can not hold a CANDLE to Weaver/Moore/Curtis/Ect, when they know that a movie with second rate actor “Matt Damon” -will- bring in a higher profit?

  13. snobographer
    March 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    If the Academy just had singular gender-neutral Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards, they’d do like they’ve done all along with the Best Director award; they’d give the awards to men every year and claim that women are inherently less capable of being really good actors. You know they would.

  14. March 4, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Bollocsk I did. You’re simply making an assumption – as do the studios.

    Imagine they made feminist or gay themed movies consistently with recogisable actors and directors, marketed them on a par with mainstream films, why *would* they all flop? From a lack of quality? Or because audiences are prejudiced, seeing certain kinds of stories as tokens? Oh, that’s been done.

    I fail to see how that wouldn’t have EVERYTHING to do with prejudice, about whose stories and what kinds are worthy of continued cultural presence and repetition, and whose are not. Oh, a het romance between two conventionally attractive white folks, it’s been done.

    Or, and maybe this is just some wild idea I have, studios underestimate their audiences, and the conjectured unprofitability of anything outside the status quo – like your argument – is simply an untested hypothesis.

  15. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Ok, I will try to keep this simple. I don’t think I have been unclear but maybe I have been:

    NO ONE is saying those movies have a 100% fail rate. NO ONE is saying “Gay movies WILL tank”. What IS being said is “If style A -is- making us LOADS of money, why should we try style B that MIGHT fail?”.

    This has nothing to do with prejudice and EVERYTHING to do with money. You see it in Movies, Video Games, and TV shows. Sitcoms offer NOTHING new, but people STILL watch them and they are made because their producers KNOW people watch them. Yes, everyone once in a while something new comes along and takes off (IE: reality shows.. though I don’t know if this is a bad thing or not..)

    Doing something new in movies, however, is a MUCH bigger risk, money wise. Now, is the idea that flooding the markets with Gay Movies an ‘untested hypothesis’? Yes, it is untested. Why? Because they don’t want to risk the money to find out when what they are doing is working. Its not sexism/Homophobia/hate. It is simply the ‘Cost effective measures’ mind set of America.

    (Hell, why do you think so many new movies are simply remakes of classics or movies from over seas that did great?)

  16. March 4, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Ah. Thank you for explaining sexism and homophobia to me, a gay woman. I feel so enlightened.

    • March 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm

      Agreed, Queen Emily. Clearly you and I were both mistaken about what “sexism” and “homophobia” means! Here I was thinking that sexism and homophobia motivated by profit were still sexism and homophobia! How wrong I was. This is as eye-opening as the time some guy explained to me that what he said couldn’t possibly be sexist, because he doesn’t hit women! Learn something new everyday.

  17. lilacsigil
    March 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Its not sexism/Homophobia/hate. It is simply the ‘Cost effective measures’ mind set of America.

    Why do you think these are mutually exclusive? Fear and conservatism – plus the idea that the only “real people” are white men – feed into both.

  18. lilacsigil
    March 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    eta: I should say “white straight men”.

  19. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    If we want to see hate/sexism/ect in everything, we can. If you are LOOKING for racism/sexism/homophobia to be the reason and are unwilling to think it might be something different, then yes.. all you will see is racism/sexism/homophobia.

    It is REALLY easy to see it, just as it is REALLY easy as a black man to say “Oh hey, Store X doesn’t stock FuBu, they are racists!” … even though they don’t have a strong market for FuBu. (FUBU is black clothing line meaning For Us, By Us. I am not saying people here do not know that, but just in case that one in a miliion person doesn’t, they know what I mean.)

    Now, even as a black man, I am not going to tell Store X they have to shell out say .. five thousand dollars (A very small amount of money I know but it will serve for this point) for a clothing line, when they can spending that same amount of money for clothing they KNOW will sell.

    Same with movies and the lack of female action stars/gay stories. Those are not mainstream, they do not make the money that action movies/horror movies make.

    If you had ten million dollars.. would you sink it into a movie that was a -big- risk? Or sink it into a movie that you know will net you twice as much?

    Sexism, sorry for bursting some bubbles here, does not play into it. That is why, in the past, we had kick ass female action stars. We don’t have as many actresses that can handle those roles, sorry, though we do have some. In five, ten years God willing, we might have another Sigourney Weaver, and others like here. But for every time Hollywood rushes out and makes an Elektra, and a Catwoman, and it TANKS.. it will take longer and longer and longer.

    I would REALLY love to hear someone explain how Hollywood (The business that it is) caring about money is the same as being sexist.

    Hollywood cares about money, oppressing people is NOT their agenda.

    ((also, as someone mentioned in regards to the Hollywood = money. I mentioned earlier that Hollywood took a risk on Reality Shows, but as my wife-to-be mentioned “Reality shows cost a LOT less to produce, staffing wise and actor payment. After all.. Road Rules, one of the first, was just MTV going out during a writer’s strike, grabbing people, and taping them. You don’t have to pay anything but Film Crew, Housing, and Editing costs…and none of those people being filmed where paid close to what sitcom actors would be. Thank you Dena for bringing this to my attention. ))

  20. March 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Cosign to everything queen emily said. The assumption that certain films “won’t make money” or certain (female) actors “won’t make money”, or certain screenplays (with strongly-drawn female characters who aren’t sexist tropes) “won’t make money”, has EVERYTHING to do with sexism and who controls the money.

    It’s probably also worth mentioning that promotion and distribution of films isn’t worth a damn. As queen emily said, they’re undeestimating their audience intellectually and artistically, and that is feeding into how, when, where, and what type of films are promoted—-which feeds back into a lack of profit as whole communities are ignored. Only recently have “art films” (roughly, anything foreign and/or independent) made it into my city. Why? Because someone at the theatre chain finally noticed that there were umpteen film clubs in the community who were getting together for showings at the art association, various local colleges, and in folks’ homes for potlucks with Netflix—and finally figured out that yes, we’d be willing to go see these films at the theatre for their first-run showing. For years, people begged the chain, “please show these films”.

    BluntHammer, I’m afraid you showed your hand when you mentioned “Bride Wars” and “He Is Just Not That Into You.” I didn’t see those, because….(drumroll please)….shitty plots and sexist stereotypes. I did go see “An Education”.

    Until women actors get the chance to break free of teeny parts and hoolow characters, we NEED the gender-segregated Oscars. And like Tlonista said—I’d like to see “Best Female Director” so they’d have to start paying attention to them!!

    It’s easy to criticize from the cheap seats and say, “women, go to the theatre and spend money”—we have to have films worth spending that money on, and we have to be able to see them where we live. Not all of us live in cities with a population of 500,000 or more.

  21. March 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    BluntHammer, “Elektra”….sucked!! There it is. It didn’t make money because (a) it sucked, and (b) there was a weak actor in the lead. Not the other way around.

    “Doomsday”, on the other hand, did not suck. It just had no distribution.

  22. March 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Sorry for the spelling errors, folks. That’s what I get for trying to eat and type at the same time.

  23. syndella
    March 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I agree with you blunthammer 100%.

  24. Jay@racialicious
    March 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    If we want to see hate/sexism/ect in everything, we can. If you are LOOKING for racism/sexism/homophobia to be the reason and are unwilling to think it might be something different, then yes.. all you will see is racism/sexism/homophobia.

    Right. All this is our fault. You have no responsibility. It’s our fault we look for racism/sexism/homophobia etc. If we didn’t look there wouldn’t be any and everything would be equal.

    Wait, you mean we’ve tried that before and failed?

    Stop talking cliche and start thinking for a moment. If we stopped talking about these types of oppressions, they’d still exist. In fact, we gag discussions of it in the mainstream almost every day, and the oppressions still exist.

    The fact is, when bad white male movies flop, we still make dozens like it. Let’s face it, nobody really knows why movies make money, they’re guessing just like the rest of us. They just concentrate on a singular market and force feed everyone else that market because they don’t know any better and they’re uncreative. And they get to be uncreative because they haven’t totally sunk their ship yet.

    (Also, the people who make up Hollywood have an “agenda”. Meaning they have a worldview that they maybe not even understand is oppressive. Because, guess what? When you don’t need to think about these things, you tend not to.)

  25. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    The thing is.. a GOOD actor/actress CAN save a crappy movie and a HORRID actor/actress can turn a great movie into crap. Elektra could have been good.. but they used a TV star who we only had to see for ONE HOUR and tried to give her a movie spot. Someone else in that role could have saved the movie.

    And I don’t mean “Famous” as “Good”. Star Wars, had it not been for the ENTIRE cast, would have flopped. (Look at the original script if you can find a copy.) Had Fisher, Ford, and Hamill not ad-libbed, the movie would have had very bad dialog even for the time it was made.

    Now, I fully defend liking Bride Wars and HJNTIY. Hell, Avatar had a shitty, and over used plot, it did not make it less worth seeing.
    Also, I find it VERY interesting for people to comment on something they themselves refuse to see.

    He’s Just Not That Into You served its purpose.. it allowed men and woman to see the stereotypes that float around AND talk about them. Myself and Dena kept pausing to say “Does such and such think like this” “Do you think like that?”. How can a movie that provokes gender based conversations, WHILE being funny, be seen as a bad thing?

    And Bride Wars is a prime example of us, as the GLOBAL male and female WE, being able to sit back and laugh at ourselves. Bridezilla (one of those reality shows) is another example of women, in real life, taking their wedding TOO seriously. Though I DID like how they had the girl who was strong willed and independent ending up happy at the end.

    We, as human beings, should be able to sit back and laugh at the things we and our fellow people DO. As a man, I can laugh at the stereotype of men hitting middle age, getting a sports-car, a young yoga instructor girlfriend, and hair plugs. Why? Because I know that while SOME men do this, most of us don’t.


    If someone is going to have a closed mind about any form of racism/sexism/homophobia/arachnophobia/ect, then they WILL see it everywhere even if it is not there. I could easily say that some guy who cut me off on the Freeway did it because I am black, and I could go on a forum to say that all white people on a Freeway want to cut off black people. Mind you, this whole time I got cut off by a guy on the Freeway who was simply in a damn hurry. Was it racist? No.. because it was not motivated by my race. Would it have been sexist if rather then a white male.. it had been a black FEMALE? Would that have been HER being sexist.. or was it just her (Much like the male above) who was motivated by her own business.

    Again: I am not saying Sexism isn’t real. (In one of my above posts I think I pretty clearly said it IS real.) My point, however, is that NOT everything that SEEMS sexist/racist/ect IS. We need to dig A LOT deeper before slapping these labels on things.

    • March 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm

      Blunthammer, I believe that you identified up thread as a man, right? Good. Now stop telling women what is and isn’t sexist. We get that all over the internet. This is an explicitly feminist space. And in feminist spaces, as would ideally be the case everywhere, women’s own experiences with what is and isn’t sexism are valued above other judgments. The same goes for people of color in identifying racism, trans people in identifying transphobia, and so on.

      Please do not make me moderate your comments with a heavier hand. You don’t think it’s sexism? Well bully for you. There’s a whole lot of women sitting here telling you that it is. If that’s not good enough for you, great, but bow out of the conversation, or engage it on another site that holds women’s experiences as up for debate.

  26. Sailorman
    March 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    One obvious issue with gender-neutral Oscars is that it would halve the number of Oscars available to performers.

    There are 24 Oscar categories as per Wikipedia, of which only 4 go for acting. Go gender-neutral and you will either have only two available for acting, or you’ll have to start with “runner up” or something similar.

    If you think the Oscars are more about filming, directing, sound, and costumes, then the change shouldn’t bother you. If you think the Oscars should really focus on the actors (to at least some degree) then the change might not sit well.

    Also, more random statistics:

    The existing gender split means that any given woman is more than twice as eligible–in theory–to win an Oscar as is a man. You have 30% of the performers (women) competing for two Oscars, and 70% of the performers (men) competing for the other two.

    If you assume that women and men are equally competent actors, then women would only get 30% of the two available spots. Every now and then, there would be no women at all. who won.

  27. Happy Feet
    March 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Blunthammer, there is a website you have clearly not seen before, but very desperately need to:

    If you can read that, then come back here and manage to comment without managing to do all of those things, you get a cookie!

  28. March 4, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Until women actors get the chance to break free of teeny parts and hoolow characters, we NEED the gender-segregated Oscars. And like Tlonista said—I’d like to see “Best Female Director” so they’d have to start paying attention to them!!

    Yes, exactly. This is what BluntHammer is missing. Movies made by, or starring, women do not tend to make a lot of money because they tend to be stupid, frivolous romantic comedies that consist over overly-stereotyped, predictable garbage. Half the female population will see it, and no one else. Now replace a strong male lead with a strong female actor in a movie. That doesn’t seem believable quite yet. Once it happens repeatedly, and doesn’t go away, it will become normalized in society and stigma and prejudice fade away. That’s the goal. Kind of like using gender-neutral or inclusive speech (like saying “mail carrier” or “firefighter” instead of “mailman” and “postman,” or “humanity” instead of “man”) tends to stick over time, and thinking back to the words or phrases that were used a decade ago is embarrassing.

  29. BluntHammer
    March 4, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    @April Point Break and Lost in Translation both where done by women and made a large chunk of money (For their time. Late 90s for Point break and 2004 for LiT). Don’t quote me on this but I also think “The Hurt Locker” is directed by a woman and is doing very well.

    Ok, I am about to go watch a wonderful slasher flick with my Gf, so I will try to keep this brief. (Hard as that is for me on the Hollywood issue.)

    I am offer the outlook that Hollywood is motivated by something much deeper then Sexism. I do not say this to try to pretend sexism is not real, nor am I going to say Sexism is all in the mind.

    I do, however, point out a few good female actions stars and the ones who have flopped and hurt the chances of more movies of that ‘genre’ being made.

    I am well aware that I am not going to be able to bring everyone to my way of thinking on this, anymore then I will on the subject of teaching kids EARLY about BC, Sex, ect. But I do hope, God Willing, that some women and some men will see my comments and say “Hey, he has a good point.. it is something worth thinking about.”

    But when you get comments that boil down to “Pick up your Jacks and go to another topic”, then I know that anything said by -any- party along the same lines is going to turn into a flame war and I doubt anyone wants to read through 20 posts of flame.

    If anyone would like to continue this conversation, has questions or opinions feel free to contact me by email @ This includes anyone who comes across these posts and says “Huh, I wonder if BluntHammer has thought about ‘this’ in relation to his comments, I’ll ask him.”

  30. Jay@racialicious
    March 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Again: I am not saying Sexism isn’t real. (In one of my above posts I think I pretty clearly said it IS real.)

    Whatever. Saying sexism is real then denying every piece of sexism that exists effectively makes the statement worthless.

    Cara already said enough about you telling others what they experienced; I’m not going to add more.

  31. March 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Also, I find it VERY interesting for people to comment on something they themselves refuse to see.

    I found the previews incredibly insulting. Now, perhaps I’m making a great mistake in not viewing the rest of these films; perhaps the previews were not representative of the films. However, considering that studios tend to pour a lot of effort into the previews in order to sell their films, if that’s the best they could come up with….I’ll pass. I find outrageously sexist tropes insulting. Not the kind of thing I want to spend money on, and not the kind of thing I want to take my daughter to go see. I’m sick and tired of storylines that feature vapid female characters. I’m sick and tired of people who expect me to live down to those stereotypes. I’m also sick and got.damn tired of mansplaining.

    BluntHammer, I’m a 42 year old woman, ok? I’ve been seeing this shit my whole life. So, I’m not “digging”, as you accuse Jay of. The film industry has a problem with giving too many women a chance to break—kinda like apprenticeship classes that only have a couple of men of color, and maybe one woman. That’s one way in which women don’t get to develop or reveal their talent (“we already have a woman.”)

    Another way: age. Women over 35 are “old” to Hollywood. Men don’t get old until they’re over 70. I’m tired of casting that features a man old enough to be my father, with a “wife” young enough to be my daughter—and the plot doesn’t feature or even mention the May-December relationship, you know?

    Another way: weight. A woman is “fat” in Hollywood if she weighs 120 lbs. Weight is not a barrier for men. Kevin James, John Goodman, Alfred Molina, James Gandolfini, Jason Alexander, Dom DeLouise, Danny DeVito, Dennis Franz, Forest Whittaker, Jack Black, Brian Dennehy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marlon Brando, James Earl Jones, Oliver Platt—they aren’t making a living in spite of their weight, but because of it!

    For crying out loud, BluntHammer, go down to Blockbuster and rent “Searching for Debra Winger” and then come back to this thread, ok?? Sexism isn’t something women have to hunt under a rock for—it’s right in front of our noses, every. day. I’m serious—go watch that film. It’s interviews with well-known female actors about the raw deal they get cut and how they negotiate their way through the hostile territory that is the film industry. Go. Run along now. Do your homework.

  32. Greg
    March 5, 2010 at 12:05 am

    They will never get rid of the female acting awards in a million years. That would mean halving the number of acting awards, first of all, which would mean halving the number of categories people actually care about, and significantly damaging the ratings for the broadcast. It would also mean much fewer women would get nominated, which would mean fewer glamourous dresses on the red carpet, which, again, would damage ratings.

    On the question of whether they should, I vote no. As bad as roles are for women now, it would be much worse without the Best Actress category. A perception of quality is a lot more important in marketing movies to adult women than teenage boys, and awards are a useful marketing tool for creating that perception. It would be much harder to market a movie like Ad Education or Rachel Getting Married or La Vie en Rose without big ads trumpeting how many Oscars/Golden Globe nominations a picture got. And if a studio can’t figure out how to market a movie, they’re damn sure not going to spend movie on making it.

    That said, I disagree that women would necessarily always lose or even lose more than fifty percent of the time. Looking over previous years’ awards, I think Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) probably still would have won. Those were both cases of “reward the big movie star whose never won”. Helen Mirren (The Queen) would have beaten Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) in 06. That performance was strong enough to push the movie into Best Picture, even though aside from Mirren’s performance, there wasn’t much there. Similarly, Charlize Theron (Monster), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) and both of Hilary Swank’s performances (Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby) would have been competitive if not down right favorites.

  33. Lizzie
    March 5, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Just for the purposes of a brief derail
    Happy Feet – is that derailing thingy your site? It’s genius. I would also suggest, though, that you add a category for: “Must you think about this all the time? Can’t you just take a break and say, fuck it, today I won’t worry about this prejudice?” I had a white man say this to me (a white woman) when I was explainining what a black male friend of mine had told me about his experience of racism (namely, often being the last person on the train who anyone sits next to). White man said, “yeah I can see that must be upsetting but some days he should just take a step back and not deal with it.” Dunno if he meant, don’t go out of the house, or just, be white for the day? I’m guessing he and Blunthammer are friends.

  34. Lizzie
    March 5, 2010 at 2:01 am

    On subject, here is a horrifying Oscar fact.

    Of 82 winners of Best Actress, 10 have won for playing prostitutes. This is higher than the number who have won for playing CEOs, presidents etc – that is, leaders.

    I fear that if the Actor/Actress category were to merge it would be the last time we see a woman GET a “leader” role. Because it’d be safer to continue to cast women in subordinate/oppressed roles where they have a shot at the prize because they are doing something that is “natural” for women (because it is good for your movie if your actress wins a prize, though not as good as if your actor does) and hence easy to evaluate, whereas if you are an Academy voter evaluating a woman in charge, that’s even weirder than watching a dog walk on its hind legs, and inevitably going to get in the way of your appreciation of her performance. Hence men would continue to not only get a majority of roles but an even bigger majority of leadership/power roles, further entrenching the already appallingly gendered and stereotypical portrayal of gender roles coming out of Hollywood.

  35. March 5, 2010 at 2:15 am

    @Hammer: you know, there is a project being recorded on this very site having to do with films by or about women. Do not use “Bride Wars” as your example of a Woman Film.

    As other commenters have already said, for every Man Film that makes it big there are tons that flop. It’s not financial concern driving this.

    @Lizzie: excellent point.

  36. Lizzie
    March 5, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Rebecca – thank you!

    I’ve worked in Hollywood and believe me, I know writer after director after casting agent who has sat in meetings with executives and been told to justify EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER with any agency, competence, or significance, who in their vision, wasn’t a white man. It’s cool if they meet some category – Love Interest is allowed to be female, of course (provided hot and young), and is allowed a female (sassy, ditzy, frigid or slutty) Friend. Similarly, Competent Villains (terrorists, mafia bosses) are allowed to be brown, while Incompetent Villains (gang members, henchmen) are allowed to be black or brown, without comment. But the default, especially for the Hero and for any Mentor, Boss or Leader figure… white men all the way.

  37. March 5, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Upcoming shitty movies featuring stereotyped female characters:

    Bad Teacher: Gold-digging middle school teacher gets dumped by boyfriend and sets her sights on scoring the “top teacher” in her school (who is of course, a man).

    Undomestic Goddess: Successful female attorney quits her job and discovers the joy of becoming a maid.

    Bachelorette Party: High school teacher throws bachelorette party for her cousin, who is marrying the teacher’s colleague. Cousin gets drunk and cheats on her fiance. Oooh, moral dilemma—who does our heroine support now? Wanna take bets on whether or not she has a crush on her co-worker?

    For the love of all that’s holy—-WTF???!!! Note to Hollywood: I have a hell of a lot more money than teenage boys. I am NOT, I repeat, NOT paying my hard-earned money to see bullshit like this.

    Note to BluntHammer: Have you noticed that folks, particularly women, are buying and reading a hell of a lot more books lately? Have you noticed in this economic toilet we’re in, electronic readers are selling briskly? Think that speaks volumes to the deep hunger for stories? I do.

    Here’s a good article on why this sort of shit keeps happening. Few women behind the scenes. Few women in positions of power. At a time when more women–the audience– are looking for good stories, Hollywood is responding with garbage (dressed in pink). Our numbers behind the scenes are going down, not up.

    Tell me again how this is about the money. Those three odious films up above? They will bomb. They will not do well at the box office. Why? Because men won’t see them. Teenage boys won’t see them. And most women won’t see them either, because they have shit for a plot. Meryl Streep couldn’t drag that trash out of the dumpster. Neither could Sigourney Weaver, Susan Saradon, Halle Berry, Angela Basset….anyone. Shit is shit, and spraying gold paint on it isn’t going to turn it into bullion.

    Please. Run, don’t walk, to for a woman’s perspective on film.

  38. norbizness
    March 5, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Another option would be to boycott the octogenarian-stocked Academy and their cluelessness rather than attach importance to its inevitable inability to crawl into the latter half of the 20th century.

    I always watch the (Independent) Spirit Awards; although I’m sure some of the films it honors are not without it’s problems, it has a much greater diversity of talent, and it’s always more fun.

  39. visualdesperado
    March 5, 2010 at 10:00 am

    The Oscars are a self-congratulatory party Hollywood throws for itself. It’s a marketing tool for the purpose of marketing movie stars. It was founded by movie stars for that purpose. The “technical” awards are there simply to lend an aura of respectability.

    The awards are gender segregated simply to broaden the categories and parade as many movie stars as possible in front of the camera. Which is incidentally why the are best acting and supporting role Oscars. Aren’t they both acting? The multiple acting categories are in existence to get as many beautiful people as possible in to the room.

  40. Happy Feet
    March 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    @ Lizzie: no, that’s not my site! The author is anonymous, but zie requests that everyone link to the site as frequently as needed!

  41. Rob
    March 5, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Although there’s probably no artistic reason for separating the acting awards, I can’t see any way where things couldn’t get ugly politically were it to happen. Bare in mind the oscars already have to put up with accusations of tokenism and conservatism in their awards and it’s difficult to see how it wouldn’t stir up resentment on one side or another.

    As for the question of female leads in films, I actually tend to agree. Contrary to what people think, female action films of aa certain sort aren’t a bad bet moneywise. Angelina Jolie for instance, has been in three or four big action films (and contrarily, a lot of flops where she’s played more ‘feminine’ roles) and every so often something like Underworld or Resident Evil becomes a modest hit as well.

    But as the franchises of those films would suggest, it’s been the willingness of video game and comic book creators to base their work around female characters that’s made it more acceptable. The problem seems to be with the real life based genres like war or cop films which are still almost entirely a male domain in cinema, and which are the bread and butter of actors like Brad Pitt or Denzel Washington. A few more female auteur directors breaking through won’t hurt either but that ‘s the main difference in male vs female roles in hollywood. And it is sexism-based, though female moviegoers on the whole don’t seem to be much more willing to go see those films than men do.

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