Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Representation of Women in the Age of Globalized Film

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Representation of Women in the Age of Globalized Film

Article excerpt

'What we are seeing is the globalisation of Hollywood"

Aksoy and Robins (1992)

Introduction

In 2009, a UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) survey was released showing that Hollywood was not the first, or even the second productive film industry in the world. More films from Bollywood and the Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood, were produced than in Hollywood (UNESCO 2009) but despite their descent from the number one spot in production, Hollywood still had the lion's share of the market around the world. In 2006, Hollywood had at least 80 percent of the global market share leading the Washington Post to describe them as "the big cultural imperialist gorilla" (Booth 2006). Indeed, Hollywood has relied on the international box office for a majority of its profits since the 1990s (Herman and McChesney 2004,19) and increasingly so throughout the 1990s (Mingant 2007).

The expansion of Hollywood can be seen in purely economic terms: it is high in demand; it seeks to gain more profit; it is a cultural industry. However, when you enter a theatre or turn on a DVD, people do not normally think about the production process and the millions of dollars that have been put into the film. They sit down to watch an alternate reality and a spectacle. But that reality can have a lasting impact on them.

Researchers working in a district of Fiji explored the effects of Western television as it entered the lives of the local residents, particularly the girls (Becker et al. 2002). They found that after only three years since the introduction of Western television the rate of self-induced vomiting went from 0% to 11.3%. In Fiji, the full-figured woman was the desirable body type but after only a relatively limited amount of exposure to television, women on the island began to desire a thinner figure. This was not only discovered using data produced by medical institutions in Fiji but also through interviews with the girls themselves. One of them said: "When I look at the characters on TV, the way they act on TV and I just look at the body, the figure of that body, so I say, Took at them, they are thin and they all have this figure,' so I myself want to become like that, to become thin" (as quoted in Ibid., 513).

Though in many other places Western media has been around a longer time, the realization that media exposure can produce such an effect brings to question the role it has in this age of a globalized Hollywood. In this paper I am focusing on what image and idea of 'woman' maybe discerned from mainstream Hollywood films. Though it is hard to gauge what outcome any common image of women produces, media does seem to play a role as a source of information about the world around us. By exploring the common image of women in the box office blockbusters of the 1990s and 2000s, I will try to gain an understanding of the type of role women play while acknowledging that it can potentially have an effect on people watching these images.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is one of the most visited film websites and they have an entire section devoted to box office figures. Using this information, I derived a list of the top twelve box office films from 1990-1999 and from 2000-2009, within the US market. The highest earning films generally imply the films with the greatest number of viewers. Since I am concerned with the representation of women as seen by large numbers of people, using a sample that would represent films with a large audience would be ideal. Since audience statistics are difficult to calculate for film viewings, box office data will have to suffice.

The films are shown in Table 1. Though the number of films chosen does not allow for strong quantitative analysis, I decided that a more indepth qualitative study would be best in order to get an outline of the representation of women that is expressed in the films. As we can see ablarge portion of the films are action movies. Of the twenty-four films in total, fifteen fall into the action genre. …

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