When it comes to gender equality on screen, TV has the best selection. In the past few years the small screen has seen an explosion of women-led shows. Orange is the New Black is the breakout star of Netflix’s TV lineup, Scandal has Olivia Pope basically running the country from behind the scenes, and Unreal finally gave us a female anti-hero who plays everyone instead of getting played.
But the big screen still seems wary of focusing on women, even though studies have shown movies with complex female characters do better at the box office. So far in 2015 a third of Hollywood movies fail the Bechdel test. Movies like End of the Tour relegate women to prop status in author David Foster Wallace’s life. Dope only has one female character that’s not trying to get with the male leads, and that’s only because she’s into women.
The New York Times interviewed several actresses and actors, including Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, and Cate Blanchett, along with screenwriters and directors, about the pervasive sexism still lingering around Hollywood.
Ellen Page doesn’t deny that women and actors of color have it harder in Hollywood and pointed to TV shows like Orange is the New Black as "a perfect example of an incredibly diverse cast with incredible actors." She also hopes Hollywood will use it as an example.
Cate Blanchett called out the inequality of men and women when it comes to onscreen nudity, saying, "When the director says you really need to be topless in this scene, I go, 'Do I?'" Even female screenwriters, like Abi Morgan, who wrote the upcoming Suffragette, had to confront her own subconscious bias, “Writing Suffragette has made me connect more to my own responsibilities as a screenwriter. How often have I asked a woman to take off her clothes and how often have I asked a man?"
While most of the interviewees want change, some of the attitudes are disappointing. Michael Shannon, who stars alongside Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld, might as well be saying "All Lives Matter." "They say it’s harder for women in this business," he said. "And maybe there is a narrower window of opportunity, but I think it’s a hard life for anybody."
Anne Hathaway, whose pessimistic view on the situation might spur others into activism, isn’t interested in being a voice for women in Hollywood, "I'm not looking to be an advocate for women in film. That being said, I do actively take an interest in not perpetuating stereotypes that hold women back."