The largest ever analysis of film dialogue by gender and age reveals grim statistics for young people all over the world who take their cues from Hollywood.
In the parlance of media literacy, media is part of the "reflected reality" that is absorbed around the world. Movies tell us how things probably are in Russia. Or in America. Or the Middle East. These tropes and stereotypes shape attitudes not just in nationalism or ethnic differences but in gender and in identity.
What Hollywood produces, in other words, influences millions and millions of young people and the way they think about themselves, the "other," the role of women, violence, justice, beauty, empathy, dreaming, failure and just about every other major emotion connected to life events.
When we cannot just anecdotally, but with data prove that gender inequality in terms of amount of dialogue and therefore story influence is as wide as this - we have a problem that is far, far larger than you think.
As a person teaching media literacy in the Middle East, where I meet young people every single day who believe all kinds of negative stereotypes about Americans, about women, about power and justice and masculinity - I beg you, screenwriters, to vote with your keyboards and write stories that reflect reality much more closely when it comes to age and to gender roles. Believe it or not, in countries and continents very far away, you are making an impact. So make that impact for good.
Act locally but think globally. We aren't just talking about more roles for women, or more power for women in the Hollywood establishment. We are talking about empowering young women to believe that there is value in not just looks but courage. We are talking about empowering young men currently living in patriarchal countries that bravery and courage can look like sensitivity and gentleness. You can help create more Malalas with your stories. You really can. This is much, much bigger than Hollywood.
Be the writer who encourages that young girl in Pakistan. Be the writer who tells that young man in Belgium that "masculinity" does not equate with violence. Media makers simply must support media literacy. Vote with your keyboard and reflect reality. The establishment in Hollywood will eventually respond if the material they receive consistently is more reflective of reality in terms of gender, age and the collective experience.
You can be a part of the problem or you can be a part of the solution.
- More articles by Julie Gray
- Legally Speaking, It Depends: Women Issues
- Breaking In: Diversity in Hollywood - Black (and Hispanic, Asian, and Native American) Scripts Matter!
Get more advice from Julie Gray in her book
Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter's Atlas