“JANE, a 19 year old Bunny girl - honey-blonde farmland beauty queen.”
Hollywood has a long history of making films with underdeveloped female characters whose only job is to support the male protagonist. It’s 2016, and only three of the eight films nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards pass the Bechdel test. That’s a sad showing for a group of films that allegedly represent the industry’s best work. The Bechdel test examines fiction to determine whether the work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Although the test is simple, it’s a perfect indicator of not only the amount of screen time allotted to female characters, but, according to NPR reporter Neda Ulaby, “the depth of [female characters’] stories, and the range of their concerns.”
In an attempt to improve the stories that Hollywood tells about women, film producer Ross Putnam started a Twitter feed that exposes its sexism. In his feed, he posts examples of descriptions of lead female characters in screenplays that cross his desk. Each character introduction focuses on the female’s looks rather than personality traits. Putnam’s Twitter bio reads: “Producer. These are intros for female leads in actual scripts I read. Names changed to JANE, otherwise verbatim. Update as I go. Apologies if I quote your work.”
Hopefully, Putnam’s Twitter feed inspires more producers to take responsibility for their depiction of women on screen. For filmgoers, the best way to hold Hollywood accountable is to buy tickets to films that feature strong, three-dimensional female leads.
Read them all on Putnam’s Twitter feed.