Yesterday afternoon, a study comprised by Hollywood Agency CAA, tech company Shift7, and Time’s Up, the legal defense fund claimed that movies that are ‘lead by women’ make more money than films lead by men. The purpose of the study was to make the argument that women are bigger box office draws than men and thus Hollywood should follow suit in making more ‘inclusive’ films. While the media quickly praised the conclusion of this study, a look at the data raises some interesting questions about the validity of the premise.
The basis of the entire study filters the top-grossing films through what is called the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test tracks whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man (yes, this is actually what the test is). Using this test, the study concludes that these films outperformed films that ‘flunked it’. The Bechdel test created by famous lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel has now become a feminist indicator for the active presence of women in films and other fiction, and to call attention to gender inequality in fiction in the last five years.
For example, A film such as Captain America: Civil War would pass The Bechdel test meaning that Captain America: Civil War, a film lead by a man would be included in this study that claims casting women as leads in films at all budget levels offers a significant box office boost compared with their male-led counterparts. So the study in question is based on a very flawed premise. While some female lead films have been box office successes such a Wonder Woman, Moana, and Beauty and the Beast; mudding the waters by including films such as Furious 7, Jurassic World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron presents an incredibly misleading narrative especially one that is used to force an inclusion initiative on the rest of the industry.
Former Sony Pictures President Amy Pascal has already commented on the study. “This is powerful proof that audiences want to see everyone represented on screen. Decision-makers in Hollywood need to pay attention to this.”
CAA’s Christy Haubegger added, “Women comprise half the box office, yet there has been an assumption in the industry that female-led films led were generally less successful. We found that the data does not support that assumption.”
In 2018, The top 10 highest grossing films worldwide are as follows:
1. Avengers Infinity War
2. Black Panther
3. Jurassic World 2
4. Incredibles 2
6. Mission Impossible 6
7. Deadpool 2
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
9. Bohemian Rhapsody
10. Ready Player One