Film, Role Model

ROLE MODEL #2 – GEENA DAVIS

Every Friday A Peerie Yarn will look at a different female role model. They may be a role model for any reason at all, from a music legend to a fantastic author, and the piece will explore what it is that makes them someone to look up to. 

Background & Personal Life:

Geena-Davis-Hairstyles-1

source: SloDive

Geena Davis was born in Massachussets in 1956. She gained a Bachelor’s Degree in drama from Boston University in 1979 and began working in acting from the 1980’s.

Davis is a member of Mensa, a group for people in the highest 2% of intelligence based on IQ scores. She has been married four times, to Richard Emmolo (1982-83), Jeff Goldblum (1987-1990), Renny Harlan (1993-98) and to Reza Jarrahy since 2001.

She has three kids with Jarrahy, a daughter, born in 2002, and twin sons, born in 2004. In 2009 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Bates College.

“I haven’t even gone to any Mensa meetings.” 

Acting:

 

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source: SBS

Davis refers to herself as an actor, believing that the word “actress” will soon be dated in the same way as “doctress” is today. This pursuit of equality is also reflected in her choice of roles, with Davis becoming known for carefully choosing her roles.

She bagged herself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1988 for The Accidental Tourist, as well as gaining another nomination in 1991 for Best Actress in Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise. The former is Davis’ staple work – a roadtrip/buddy movie that subverted pretty much every trope from the respective genres and created something that screamed girl power.

Other roles included the baseball film A League of Their Own (1992)  and pirate caper Cutthroat Island (1995), proof that Davis refuses to be put into the typical boxes so many females working in the movie industry are.

She played a female President of the USA in ABC’s Commander in Chief, which ran for one season over 2005-2006.

Whilst her acting work has taken a backseat as she has raised a family and become more involved in activism, she is due to star in the film adaption of Marjorie Prime alongside Jon Hamm.

“If you read someday that I have signed up to play Sean Connery’s kidnapped wife, then you’ll know I’m broke.”

Archery:

Davis became interested in archery in the 1990’s and in 1999 was one of 300 women who went for semi-finals berth in the US Olympics Archery Team to participate in the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics.

She placed 24th out of 300 and whilst she did not qualify she participated as a wild card entry in the Sydney International Golden Arrow Competition.

“Archery is something that I took up later and didn’t know I had a natural aptitude for.” 

Activism & Research:

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source: Indiewire

Davis has become hugely prolific in her activism and research since the early 2000’s. She fronts the Women’s Sports Foundation and launched a campaign called “Geena Takes Aim” which advocated gender equality in sports opportunities.

She became even more interested in gender equality when watching children’s programming with her kids. She noticed the extreme gender imbalance and the worryingly sexualised nature of female characters appearances.

It was because of this that she paired with Dads and Daughters in 2005 to push for a balancing of the numbers of male and female characters in children’s TV and film. In 2007 she launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which launched the biggest research project on gender in the media to date.

The Institute published its findings, such as the fact that the ratio of male to female characters in Hollywood is 3:1, and Davis continues to speak at events all over the world to promote equality.

In 2015 she launched the Bentonville Film Festival, an event which was focused on promoting diversity in film.

“Six year old girls have already learned to see themselves through the male gaze.” 

Role Model:

Geena Davis is a massive role model for women – not only did she dedicate her career to making careful choices which allowed her to play a variety of progressive and strong roles, but she then went on to become part of the solution by spearheading the most expansive research into gender representations in media.

Davis has spent her entire career proving that no women – or person – should be put in a box. We can all be a whole range of different things, just as Davis is a wife, mother, actor, activist and archer, and her long and varied career is a testament to that.

“There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. We haven’t had a woman president yet, but we have on TV. How can we fix the problem of corporate boards being so unequal without quotas? Well, they can be half women instantly, onscreen. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM jobs today in movies and on TV. Hey, it would take me many years to become a real nuclear physicist, but I can play one tomorrow.”

What do you think of Geena Davis? Share your thoughts in the comments section! 

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Film, Opinion

THE RISE OF FEMALE FRONTED COMEDY:

 2011 was hailed as the year of change for women in comedy. With the release of smash hit Bridesmaids, which made over $287 million worldwide, it seemed that Hollywood was finally taking note regarding the depiction of female characters in comedy. For years women have been sidelined in the genre, usually appearing as one-note depictions or romantic interests to further the agenda of male characters, and it seemed as though the tide was finally turning.

Funnily enough, it’s taken a further four years for this change to really come to the fore, with 2015 seeing a string of mainstream female fronted comedies proving to be hugely successful. Spy and Pitch Perfect 2 are particularly lucrative examples, bagging well over $200 million each at the worldwide box office. Other films such as Hot Pursuit were of more dubious quality, but it is still great to see attempts being made to shake up the status quo. Then of course there was Amy Schumer shaking up the tired rom-com format with Trainwreck. It is also worth noting that the more typical male driven comedies of the year have been much less successful than Spy and Pitch Perfect 2 – Kevin Hart’s vehicles Get Hard and The Wedding Ringer were average performers, whilst Entourage and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 underwhelmed both critics and the box office.

There are some exciting prospects on the horizon, with Amy Pheloer and Tina Fey coming together for Sisters at the end of the year, an all female Ghostbusters on the horizon and a female driven comedy by the writers of the hilarious Broad City. Whilst there is certainly room for more diversity, with Sofia Vegara of Modern Family fame being one of the few ethnic stars to appear in any of the years comedies, these are all steps in the right direction.

 What is so notable about these films is its depiction of women as fully rounded, human characters. Films such as Feig’s The Heat (2013) and Spy are taking movie scenarios so typically inhabited by men and putting women at the helm. Spy is perhaps the best example, providing a hilarious yet empowering take on the tired spy format. These are all films that pass the Bechdel Test – which requires females to have a conversation not to do with men at some point in a film. This is a positive step away from the Sex and the City style chick flicks of the early 2000s, as whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with those sorts of films, they should not be the only way women are depicted in female-centric cinema.

This could finally signify a change that has been a long time in the coming. Dubbed the Bridesmaids Effect, we are finally seeing female driven comedies take their rightful place in the mainstream. Paul Fieg, a director who is deemed to be a part of this revolution for his work with Melissa McCarthy, has said: “it’s an amazing sign of progress, but it feels a little silly to be celebrating it. It’s good, but it’s not enough. And this should have happened years and years and years ago.”

 This is an interesting and wholeheartedly valid point – the fact that this is a big deal in 2015 is frankly ridiculous, and it’s still too early to tell if it is a permeanant development. It’s an area that has certainly seen a few false starts. Geena Davis – who made the news recently when she spoke out to highlight gender inequality in Hollywood – appeared to be kick starting a revolution back in the early 90’s with Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, so why has it taken another 20 years for the trend to take hold?

Quite simply, like everything in Hollywood it comes down to money. Before Bridesmaids there was nothing to convince studio executives that people would pay to see these kinds of movies. For far too long Hollywood has catered mostly for the teenage male, meaning that women are generally depicted within the limited guise of male fantasy. Whilst this trend in comedy suggests change may be on the horizon, the battle is far from over. We are yet to see a female led comic book movie from either Marvel or DC, and though there are ones in the horizon the balance is way off. Hopefully the financial and critical success of these comedies will help pave the way for progress in other genres too.

Here is Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon discussing female comedy when they were promoting Hot Pursuit – whilst the film was only average you can’t fault this duos talent!:

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