Male film extras get to play cops and doctors, while women are receptionists and “party girls”
Even as we remain collectively obsessed with Hollywood and the entertainment industry, we all know how many issues they have. From gendered double standards in celeb media coverage to unsettling wage gaps among actors and actresses, all the Hollywood garbage we watch can actually be pretty political. That’s why new research by Vox and By the Numbers on the different roles male and female extras play matters. There’s a huge dialogue around how nearly 75 percent of mainstream American films feature male leads, but extras reflect the roles everyday men and women supposedly play in the real world, and, according to this new research, male extras most frequently play policemen, reporters, and doctors, while female extras mostly play nurses, receptionists, and “party girls.”
If you take a few hours to marathon some Netflix shows, I don’t doubt you’ll find this is the case. It’s shitty enough that young girls — and young girls of color, in particular — struggle so much to find characters in major movies they can relate to. And it’s now clear that most movies subliminally reinforce gender roles on top of that so that men as doctors and women as nurses or, ah yes, party girls, remain the norm.
“While men are cast as doctors, pilots, and businessmen, women fill the roles of ‘nurse,’ ‘flight attendant,’ and ‘receptionist.’ Fewer than 15 females were credited as ‘doctor,’ compared with 120 men,” Vox notes of the 26,000 movies the study looked at. “Female actors also routinely enjoy such roles as ‘party girl’ and ‘hooker’ — the latter of which, at 43 film credits, ties with men who are cast as engineers.”
As you probably guessed, this all comes back to the fact that men are usually the ones making everything we see on TV and in movies (surprise, surprise!) Allow me to refer you to a brief excerpt of a February 2016 report by the American Association of University Women:
“In 2014, a whopping 85 percent of films had no female directors, 80 percent had no female writers, and one-third lacked female producers, according to a San Diego State University study… A Directors Guild of America analysis of 2014–15 television episodes found that a mere 16 percent were directed by women.
Given the adage ‘write what you know,’ it’s not surprising that the male-dominated culture of Hollywood manifests itself in a lack of complex, three-dimensional female characters, when female characters exist at all.”
We clearly need more women writing, acting, and directing female roles to escape this ridiculous trend.