Magazine article Screen International

Geena Davis: Gender Parity on Screen Can Be Changed Overnight

Magazine article Screen International

Geena Davis: Gender Parity on Screen Can Be Changed Overnight

Article excerpt

"I don't think it's going to take 700 years for this change to happen. From what I've seen we're going to be able to take offboth the zeros and move the needle very soon," she said today at her Institute's first international symposium, presented in London during the BFI London Film Festival in collaboration with the BFI and WFTV.

"The ratio of male and female characters has been exactly the same since 1946," she lamented of male roles outnumbering females by three to one in most children's film and TV shows.

Davis noted that this is a global issue across society. For example, it's hard to change overnight the fact that only 17% of business leaders are women, but it's easier and quicker to change female representation on screen..."The change must be immediate and dramatic," she said.

"In all the sectors of society how long will it take to reach gender parity? One category can be changed overnight - on screen. In the time it takes to create a television show or a movie, we can change. There aren't enough female CEOs in the world, there can be half female CEOs on screen [immediately]."

As an example, she cited the direct impact of the CSI TV franchises, where the majority of the forensic scientists on the show are played by women. "In real life the number of women wanting to enter that profession has skyrocketed," noted Davis, citing a statistic that some forensic science courses have a three-to-one ratio of female-to-male students.

"This is change that can happen, it's doable, it's easy, it can be fun and exciting and inventive," she said in a funny and rousing speech to a packed house at NFT1 at the BFI Southbank today.

Davis spoke about her own career as well. "Acting is what brought me to this profound passion about how women are depicted...I try to help empower women by choosing the roles I choose to play. Playing roles I believe will resonate with women. I've only played role models." Showcasing impeccable comic timing she added, "It's true I was in Earth Girls Are Easy a long time ago (1988). We can put that one title aside."

She continued, "As an actor I've been long aware there are fewer great parts for women. Many of them are not that interesting, they are often not that vital to the plot, they are often the girlfriend. I have had the incredible parts like in Thelma & Louise and A League Of Their Own. I've also played the first female president of the US on TV [in Commander In Chief].

"These experiences led me to a profound interest in the way women and girls are depicted on screen. Thelma & Louise changed the course of my life. It cemented my passion for wanting to help empower women."

Speaking about 1991's Thelma & Louise, now seen as a groundbreaking work showing strong female characters on screen, she said the passionate response to the film took the team by surprise. …

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