Caucasian males plague Hollywood, and white men everywhere should feel guilty about it. This is the message conveyed by New York Times “analyst” Johanna Barr in an article covering a recent University of Southern California (USC) study on gender inclusion within Hollywood.
The USC study, on merit alone, held potential to yield useful data on how consumer preferences influence gender diversity within one of America’s most lucrative industries. However, the sponsors of the study chose political theatrics instead of simple, unbiased data mining.
“We like to say we don’t have a diversity problem; we actually have an inclusion crisis, on screen and behind the cameras,” said professor Stacy Smith, a co-researcher for the study. “You would think, ‘why are we leaving money on the table?’”
Barr continued Smith’s political narrative in a now deleted tweet which read, “in my 1st piece since joining the NYT express team, i wrote about my favorite topic: how white men talk too much”.
She also bemoaned that the study discovered “the language used by female characters tended to be more positive, emotional and related to family values, while the language used by male characters was more closely linked to achievement.”
Is promoting family values such a bad thing? Unfortunately, so-called “progressives” frown upon the notion of strong women choosing (independently, and of their own free will) to care for and raise a family. Meanwhile, most of the film industry’s consumers, middle-class Americans, still appreciate the concepts of family values, and applaud when they’re depicted on screen.
However, what’s especially disappointing about Barr’s and Smith’s approach to this topic is that Hollywood does indeed suffer from systemic sexism, and they completely fail to address it. The film industry uses and abuses thousands of women every year, but it doesn’t stem from men talking too much. It’s also not because “only” 53 of the top 100 movies in 2016 featured an African-American female (who comprise approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population.)
Rather, the sexist elephant in the Hollywood room is the fact that Hollywood hyper-sexualizes women, often under the guise of “female empowerment.”
For example, in a review of the new Netflix series “Glow,” which is intended to expose the overtly sexist world of female wrestling, World Magazine’s Laura Finch notes, “if you’re trying to make a point about the objectification of women, maybe everyone could keep their tops on?”
She goes on to end the piece by predicting the obvious.
“The subject matter—prejudice in Hollywood—is not going to be helped by putting women in spandex and teaching them how to stage fight.”
Hollywood, at its core, is still a capitalistic industry. While producers often attempt to push a personal, political narrative, the box office is what ultimately influences whether a company is willing to continue with that style. With successful recent hits like Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures, the money trail suggests that Americans appreciate films about hard-working, independent women who earn their success.
Perhaps if Hollywood focused more on producing films like these, and less on the hyper-sexualization of women, the free market would solve the problem of men “talking too much” in movies.