A Number Cruncher's Look At Oscar's Woman Problem

Feb 28 2014, 2:35pm CST | by

A Number Cruncher's Look At Oscar's Woman Problem
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

At first glance, it’s hard to see how the Oscars don’t equally represent the most successful men and women in Hollywood. There are just as many acting categories for men as there are for women so the same number get awards.

But Amelia Showalter over at Newsweek used numbers to find a very different story. Showalter is a quantitative political consultant who was the director of digital analytics at  President Obama’s re-election campaign. She’s a numbers-first kind of wonk.

She used her analytic skills to look at 80 years of acting nominations and films up for Best Picture to see if any patterns emerged. She found that there’s a double standard when it comes to movies focused on women instead of men. Female-centric movies may net acting nominations but they don’t usually earn Best Picture nods. In other words, a woman is more likely than a man to earn an acting nomination for a movie that didn’t make the Best Picture cut.

To take a closer look at the problem Showalter focused on movies that were nominated for Best Picture but either only had female acting nomination or only had male acting nominations. She found 7% of the female-skewing films won Best Picture while 20% of the male-skewing films won the biggest prize.

Of films that had multiple actress nominations, 44 failed to also earn Best Picture nominations. You can see that pattern this year too. Both Blue Jasmine and August: Osage County earned two acting nods each (for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress) but neither film was nominated for Best Picture. To add insult to injury to that statistic, only nine films were nominated for Best Picture. Today’s Academy rules allow for 10 Best Picture nominees if the movies earn enough votes.

Sadly, this analysis is mostly a reflection of what’s happening in Hollywood at large. There is less money out there for movies that are seen as female-centric so fewer get made and fewer end up in the top ranks at Oscar time. Once a movie has been nominated, it’s in the hands of a group of 6,000-odd voters who the Los Angeles Times has shown are overwhelmingly white and male. So Argo beats Zero Dark Thirty. The Departed beats The Queen and Gladiator beats Erin Brockovich.

In the above examples, we could argue all day about which of those films were actually better. But what Showalter has shown, from a completely objective point of view, is that there is a very serious bias towards male-themed films.

How can this change? For one thing, the Academy could invite a lot more women to become voters. But there also needs to be more female directors and more women holding the purse strings at the top. Earlier this week a group of professors from USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative wrote a guest post for my blog where they talked about this problem. From their article:

For those who are impatient for change or unhappy with simply raising awareness, there are procedural solutions to these representational issues. Transparent decision-making practices surrounding hiring are a first step toward change. … Studios, production companies, or agencies developing and packaging films could elect to require that women and people of color are at minimum considered for open directing jobs. Diversity can become part of the fabric of decision-making at the earliest stages of a movie’s lifecycle.

Follow me on Twitter at DorothyatForbes.

Join us live tweeting the Oscars Sunday night at #ForbesOscars

Most Profitable Oscar movies

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Indian-origin researcher's model to empower women in IT
New York, Aug 28 (IANS) Under-representation of skills had forced women working in the IT sector to flee the profession but a 12-year-old model by an Indian-origin researcher can help stem the gender bias, a significant study says.
 
 
Gene decides alcohol addiction risk
New York, Aug 28 (IANS) What has alcohol addiction got to do with genes? A lot, researchers say.
 
 
'Good' cholesterol can help treat pulmonary hypertension
New York, Aug 28 (IANS) For those suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a serious lung disease that narrows the small blood vessels in the lungs, here's some good news. A new study demonstrates that protein in "good" cholesterol may treat the affliction.
 
 
The wave-like nature of skill learning
Washington, Aug 28 (IANS) Know why learning a new skill is easy for some while difficult for others? It depends on a fundamental constraint hidden in the brain.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Indian-origin researcher's model to empower women in IT
New York, Aug 28 (IANS) Under-representation of skills had forced women working in the IT sector to flee the profession but a 12-year-old model by an Indian-origin researcher can help stem the gender bias, a...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Richardson pleased with ICC World Cup 2015 preparations
Dubai, Aug 28 (IANS) International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive David Richardson Thursday expressed his satisfaction with preparations for World Cup 2015 after receiving detailed updates in Wellington and...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Ed Sheeran thinks Miley Cyrus is 'fantastic'
Ed Sheeran insists he thinks Miley Cyrus is ''fantastic'' even though she called him an ''a**hole.'' The 'Sing' hitmaker says he has no issues with the 21-year-old star and thinks she's ''got a great voice'' despite the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Jennifer Aniston: Courteney Cox should enjoy engagement
Jennifer Aniston thinks Courteney Cox should enjoy being engaged. The 45-year-old actress, whose fiancé Justin Theroux proposed on his birthday two years ago, is thrilled her former 'Friends' co-star is planning to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Lily Allen's twerking child
Lily Allen's youngest child can already twerk. The 'Smile' hitmaker, who has two kids, Ethel, two, and 19-month-old Marnie with husband Sam Cooper, revealed her second daughter has already mastered the technique of the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Katherine Heigl drops $6million lawsuit
Katherine Heigl has dropped her $6million lawsuit against Duane Reade. The 'Knocked Up' star was suing the drug store company after it posted paparazzi shots of her carrying the shop's bags on it's Twitter and Facebook...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Miley Cyrus invites Jesse Held to live with her
Miley Cyrus is living with her homeless friend Jesse Held. The 'Wrecking Ball' singer shocked onlookers at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday (24.08.14) by turning up with a homeless friend, and Miley...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Beyonce's father: Divorce rumours were to 'ignite' ticket sales
Beyonce Knowles' father has claimed his daughter and Jay Z orchestrated divorce rumors to ''ignite'' ticket sales. The couple have been hit by speculation their marriage is on the rocks in recent weeks but Matthew...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Idris Elba dated 19-year-old woman at 14
Idris Elba had a 19-year-old girlfriend when he was 14. The 41-year-old actor - who has been dating partner Naiyana Garth since last year - has claimed he seduced the ''beautiful'' woman when he was a youngster by...
Read more on Celebrity Balla