Two recent studies found that representation still lags for female characters, especially in roles for women of color.
Women Make Up One-Third of Speaking Roles
Men outnumbered women on screen in 2021 films by two to one according to a recent study from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
The center’s report, dubbed “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World,” analyzed last year’s top 100 grossing films. Of those pictures, 31% had a female protagonist, compared to the 57% of films led by men. The remaining 12% had an ensemble.
The protagonist representation spiked upwards slightly from 2020 but still fell short of the 40% of films with female leads in 2019.
The report also found that women took up 35% of “major character” roles while men took up 65%. The figures were nearly identical when it came to speaking roles, with women and men accounting for 34% and 66% of those parts respectively.
“An astounding 85% of films featured more male than female characters,” the report continued. “Only 7% of films had more female than male characters. 8% of films featured equal numbers of female and male characters.”
Women were also “younger than their male counterparts” in films. Roles for female characters dropped from 34% for women in their 30s to 18% for women in their 40s.
Racial diversity did improve slightly. Just over 60% of female roles were for white characters, down significantly from the 71% in 2020. Representation for Black women in speaking roles increased to 19.3% from 16.9% last year.
The biggest ground was gained for Latina and Asian characters. For female speaking characters, 9.5% were Latina, up from 5.8%, and 8.4% were Asian or Asian American, up from 6%.
The report noted, however, that this progress was thanks only to a handful of films. If pictures like “Encanto,” “West Side Story,” “Spirit Untamed,” “Cry Macho,” and “In the Heights” are taken out of the equation, essentially no gain was shown for Latina speaking roles. A similar pattern followed for films with largely Asian casts.
Diversity Growth Concentrated in Select Films
While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Martha Lauzen, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, highlighted the fact that Latina and Asian roles were concentrated in certain films “rather than integrated throughout the industry.”
“Despite the major disruptions in the film business over the last couple of years, on-screen gender ratios have remained relatively stable,” she continued in a statement. “Last year audiences saw almost two male characters for every female character, and although women protagonists led some of the most high-profile films including ‘Spencer,’ ‘Being the Ricardos’ and ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye,’ women comprised slightly less than one third of sole protagonists last year.”
The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative also released a study analyzing on-screen diversity this week. Their report, titled “Inequality Across 1,500 Popular Films,” likewise looked at the top 100 grossing movies of 2021. It similarly found that women were under-represented, but did find slightly more gender representation.
The report claimed that 41% of those movies featured a female lead or co-lead driving the plot. Discrepancies between reports like these can stem from a number of factors, including how each study defined “major characters,” “speaking roles,” and other criteria.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study specifically noted that the pandemic impacted the rate at which representation has grown in film, stating that it caused a slump for women in 2020, but adding: “the pre-pandemic gains observed at the box office in 2019 held into 2021 after a dip in 2020.”
The study also found that just 32% of films featured a lead or co-lead from an underrepresented race or ethnicity, which is below proportional representation. When it came to women of color, specifically, just 11 movies in total had a female lead from an underrepresented group.
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Variety) (Entertainment Weekly)
YouTube Touts MrBeast and Mainstream Appeal in First Upfront Presentation
According to Nielson, over 230 million people in the United States used the video service in just one month.
YouTube Presents at Upfronts
During its first Upfront presentation on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company said it was joining staple broadcast and entertainment companies “because YouTube is the mainstream.”
“Viewers have more choices than ever about what to watch or where to watch it,” Wojcicki said while speaking at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. “And they continue to use YouTube.”
The company had previously done its Brandcast presentation at the NewFronts. This was the first time its pitch came alongside television competitors during the busy Upfronts season.
Many of YouTube’s primary talking points were highlighted in a company blog post. In its address, it marketed itself not just as the future of media consumption, but as the modern-day leader, too.
It said that over 135 million people watched YouTube on Connected TVs, representing every age demographic from toddlers to viewers 55-years-old and up. It also cited Nielson data that said YouTube has over 50% of ad-supported streaming watch time on TV screens.
Nielsen also found that YouTube reached over 230 million people in the United States in just one month.
YouTube Offers Up Its Talent
MrBeast, one of YouTube’s top creators, attended the presentation. The company boasted that if MrBeast were his own streaming service, he would “would have more subscribers than the next three most popular ad-supported streaming services.” In other words, with 95 million YouTube subscribers, MrBeast is ahead of HBO and HBO Max’s 77 million, Paramount’s 33 million, and Hulu’s 54 million in the United States.
Or course, subscribing to a YouTube channel is very different from subscribing to a streaming service, as YouTube subscriptions come at no cost. Viewers can subscribe to as many or as few creators as they please for free, while each streaming service has a monthly or annual fee to gain access to its content.
YouTube didn’t only show off its homegrown talent. Popstar Lizzo also took the stage to sing her praises of the company, along with a few of her biggest hits.
But the company’s most important appeals came from the strengths it offered to advertisers. It claimed that 2020 Nielson analysis showed that YouTube on average had a 1.2 times greater return on investment than television.
It also announced a frequency optimization tool for advertisers that would allow companies to control how many times viewers see their spots in one week. In its blog post, YouTube said this allows for “more efficient” spending and “a better experience for viewers.”
It touted this optimization as “a solution only YouTube can provide.”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (TubeFilter) (Variety)
“Saturday Night Live” Faces Backlash for Sketch Mocking the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial
Many fear that jokes about the case could hurt the everyday domestic abuse survivors that see them.
SNL Mocks Trial
After “Saturday Night Light” parodied the ongoing defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in its cold open this weekend, many are criticizing the show — and media at large — for making a mockery of the case.
Ever since the trial began in April, there has been an onslaught of TikToks, tweets, videos, and other posts turning the happenings in the courtroom into clickbait content. Most of the posts use Heard as a punchline as the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp narrative prevails online.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” While she never mentioned Depp by name, many believed the piece referred to previous abuse allegations she had made about him. Depp, however, alleges that Heard was actually the abuser and concocted the claims to ruin his career. She countersued for $100 million.
In its most recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Kyle Mooney as Depp, Cecily Strong as the judge, and Aidy Bryant and Heidi Gardner as lawyers in the case. The sketch took place in the courtroom as the involved parties discussed allegations that Heard defecated in her and Depp’s bed. They then watched “video evidence” of house staffers, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor, and Chris Redd, finding the fecal matter.
At various points, Strong’s judge said they should continue watching the video “because it’s funny” and she and Mooney’s Depp both said they find the trial “amusing.”
“This trial is for fun,” the judge proclaimed at one point.
Many online did not see the humor in SNL’s parody, arguing that a case involving domestic abuse accusations should not be a punchline. Some said the sketch was “disgusting and desperate.”
“Domestic violence is not a joke. Rape is not a joke,” writer Ella Dawson tweeted. “Abusers using the legal system to continue to terrorize their victims is not a joke. Abusers using accusations of defamation to silence their victims is not a joke.”
“In twenty years people are going to look back at this trial and all of the media coverage and be disgusted,” Dawson continued.
“You’re free to have absolutely no opinion on the Depp/Heard trial, but thinking it’s ‘for fun’ is for someone with a diseased heart and brain,” Meredith Haggerty, the senior culture editor at Vox, wrote.
Many felt that regardless of how someone feels or who they support in this case, those making fun of Heard are “making a joke of victims everywhere.”
Criticism of Media’s Trial Coverage
Others argued this sketch was part of an overall disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of this case where serious allegations were being played up for laughs.
The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has trended on Twitter several times throughout the trial as fans defend the actor. Many also use it to mock Heard, share clips of her crying, and in some cases, spread misinformation about her courtroom claims. The tag is also popular on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 11 billion times as of Monday morning.
Many of the videos involve jokes about the case, memes, fan cams, and other content meant to belittle Heard. On TikTok, the tag #AmberTurd has raked in over 1.6 billion views. Some videos involve animated renderings of courtroom videos meant to make Heard look careless or dumb. Others use audio of Heard alleging that Depp hit her along with silly imagery to make those claims look like a farce. Many involve people making fun of the way Heard has cried on the stand.
Experts have told numerous media outlets that by ridiculing Heard, Depp’s supporters are potentially harming abuse victims that may come across these posts.
“I can’t imagine what this might be doing to someone who may eventually want to seek safety and support,” Ruth M. Glenn, the chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News. “Whether it’s Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, how dare us make fun and make light of someone who is sharing something very personal — no matter how we feel about that person.”
The trial is being broadcast live so interested parties can watch it unfold in real-time. The viral clips have allowed the case to become a massive entertainment spectacle.
Public discourse of the trial has sorted people into either “Team Depp” or “Team Heard,” and just a quick glance online will show that Depp has so far won a good portion of public favor. Still, no matter how one views the trial, many think jokes at the expense of Heard’s claims are a bridge too far.
“In the commentary, it’s almost as if people are forgetting that this is real life, that this is not a show that we’re all watching,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will go into a courtroom at some point and have an experience that is largely outside of their control, in a setting like this.”
“There’s such a strong desire in the public discourse for [Heard] to be the villain, for her to be the example of the fact that there are victims who have ulterior motives, that there are victims who are not telling the full truth,” Palumbo continued. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of folks thinking critically or wanting to understand the nuances of abuse or of unhealthy relationships.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)
Actors Equity Association Slams Nude Video Leak of “Take Me Out”
Even though audience members are supposed to have their phones locked away, one viewer uploaded a video featuring actor Jesse Williams naked.
Nude Video From “Take Me Out” Leaks
The Actors Equity Association, Second Stage, and stars of Broadway’s “Take Me Out” condemned a leaked video of the play that captured actors during a nude scene.
Actor Jesse Williams, best known for his role in “Grey’s Anatomy,” is seen fully naked in the clip, which was taken by an audience member despite the show’s no-phone policy. It was uploaded online Monday night.
The Actors Equity Association, a labor union representing thousands of theater workers, addressed the leak on Tuesday via a statement by its president Kate Shindle.
“As actors, we regularly agree to be vulnerable on stage in order to tell difficult and challenging stories. This does not mean that we agree to have those vulnerable moments widely shared by anyone who feels like sneaking a recording device into the theater,” Shindle said. “Whoever did this knew not only that they were filming actors without their consent, but also that they were explicitly violating the theater’s prohibition on recording and distribution.”
Shindle equated the leak to “sexual harassment and an appalling breach of consent.”
“Taking naked pictures of anyone without their consent is highly objectionable and can have severe legal consequences,” Second Stage, which is producing “Take Me Out,” echoed in a statement. “Posting it on the internet is a gross and unacceptable violation of trust between the actor and audience forged in the theatre community.”
Second Stage said it implemented a strict phone-free rule at the show, meaning attendees had to lock their devices in a pouch during the performance. The group said it is “appalled” that this policy was violated. Additional security will be added to upcoming shows to enforce the rules.
Second Stage is also “actively pursuing takedown requests” of the video.
Leak Slammed As Disrespectful
Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who stars alongside Williams in the play, said the leak showed “disrespect” towards his fellow castmates.
“Anyone who applauds or trivializes this behavior has no place in the theater,” he wrote on Twitter.
The videos leaked on the same day Williams earned a Tony Award nomination for his role in “Take Me Out.” The show is also nominated for Best Play Revival, and Ferguson and Michael Oberholtzer are nominated alongside Williams for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
While speaking on “Watch What Happens Live” following the leak, Williams said the nude scenes were not a big deal.
“It’s a body, once you see it, you realize it’s whatever, it’s a body,” the actor said. “I just have to make it not that big of a deal.”