Actor John Cusack really takes the Say Anything ideology to heart. While promoting his new film, David Cronenberg’s Map of the Stars, the actor recently told a Guardian journalist that Hollywood is a “whorehouse” with a nasty misogynistic streak, where young actresses are “put out to pasture at 29.” “It’s becoming almost like kiddie porn,” he said of the industry’s preference for “hot 22.”
Cusack was defending Map of the Stars’ satiric take on Hollywood corruption. (At one point in the film, a 26-year-old actress is deemed “menopausal.”) “I got another 15, 20 years before they say I’m old,” said the 48-year-old actor. “For women it’s brutal.”
Indeed it is.
A new study commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media put some scientific weight behind Cusack’s professional opinion, revealing that the kind of creepy-uncle thinking that predominates off-screen affects what we see on-screen too. To put it bluntly, researchers at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism determined that sexism isn’t just a dominant theme in Hollywood movies, but also a widespread problem in film, period.
Basically, misogyny is the plot line filmmakers never tire of.
The study analyzed more than 120 popular films from 11 different countries, including the U.S., and looked at how many female characters were present in these films and how these characters were represented/sexualized. It also considered the gender of the filmmakers.
The researchers revealed a serious imbalance in terms of representation. Out of 5,799 speaking roles, only 30.9 percent were given to women. Female characters were also most often depicted as being employed in menial or lower-level jobs, and female characters are five times more likely to deal with comments related to their appearance than male characters.
The worst finding (i.e., the one guaranteed to make your heart sink): when it comes to films, 13-year-old girls are as likely to be sexualized on-screen as 30-year-olds.
The dismal results make you want to officially surrender your membership to the human race—or at least cancel your Netflix subscription—but lead researcher Stacy Smith says there is hope for change. Smith told The New Republic that the film industry should institute a more equitable hiring policy in which female directors have to be considered for top jobs. (Films that were helmed by female directors, a minority in the industry, give more roles to women.)
Additionally, audiences have every right to ask that the world they see on film bears some semblance to the world they inhabit, one in which women don’t make up 30 percent of the population, but rather 50 percent.
Here’s hoping John Cusack is one of the first celebs to vocalize Smith’s proposition. We’re pretty sure Lloyd Dobler would approve.