Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Angelina Jolie's Courage And The Movie Industry

Angelina Jolie's op-ed piece in the New York Times is much spoken about today, and for good reason.  Jolie found out that she possesses a rare gene which makes her breast cancer and ovarian cancer risks very high, and she elected to have a preventive double-mastectomy.  She then elected to make her mastectomy public.

To set Jolie's courage into proper perspective, here are some news about women in the movies:

There's one mountain in Hollywood that even "The Hunger Games'" scrappy heroine Katniss Everdeen hasn't been able to move: the number of roles for women.
Despite the success of recent female-driven movies such as "Bridesmaids" and the "Hunger Games" and "Twilight" series, female representation in popular movies is at its lowest level in five years, according to a study being released Monday by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, the study reported, 28.4% of speaking characters were female. That's a drop from 32.8% three years ago, and a number that has stayed relatively stagnant despite increased research attention to the topic and several high-profile box-office successes starring women.
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"There is notable consistency in the number of females on-screen from year to year," said USC researcher Marc Choueiti. "The slate of films developed and produced each year is almost formulaic — in the aggregate, female representation hardly changed at all."
When they are on-screen, 31.6% of women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the five years the USC researchers have been studying the issue.
For teen girls, the number who are provocatively dressed is even higher: 56.6% of teen girl characters in 2012 movies wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20% since 2009.
The USC researchers said these trends persist because those working in Hollywood believe attracting a male audience is the key ingredient to box office success.

Bolds are mine.  

What that quote tells us is something pretty basic:  Having a sexy body is very important for female actors in Hollywood.  It's not as important to be able to speak, apparently.

Given all that, nobody would have blamed Jolie had she stayed silent about her double-mastectomy.  Speaking about it can be a career-destroying move, even for someone as famous as Jolie.

And that's what makes Jolie brave.
 You might also be interested in the identifiable victim effect in stories like this one.  And then the man behind the curtain:  On the patenting of genes such as the one Jolie has and its possible effect on the affordability of early diagnosis.