Alice Jones of the Independent

I read an article in The Independent the other week that really made my jaw drop in exasperation and fury.  Written by young journalist Alice Jones, and headlined ‘In Hollywood its Silence of the Ma’ams’, it referred to a recent report saying that across the 100 highest grossing films at the US box office in 2012, only 28.4% of speaking characters were female, and that only 6% of the films featured a cast where the split of speaking roles was roughly 50/50 men to women.   Whaaaaaaaaaat!!! I hear you gasp!  Yes, that was my reaction too.


As Alice wittily (and perceptively) commented, “extra-terrestrials, trolls and cartoon jungle animals probably have more chance of getting a line than a living, breathing actress.”  This is surely a shameful state of affairs, especially when women easily buy as many cinema tickets as men.


And when you look at the roles women are actually given in those films it gets even more depressing… arm/eye candy for Neanderthal petrol-head leading men, the helpless/pea-brained girlfriend desperate to take her clothes off and pleasure her hero/man in bed or out of it, or the sidelines PA/Assistant who secretly obsesses about having that big white wedding all of us girls are supposed to yearn for, and not a lot else, unless you’re the likes of Judy Dench or Maggie Smith.


With 31.6% of actresses appearing on screen in ‘sexually revealing clothes’, and half teenage girls on screen wearing provocative outfits (as opposed to 7% of teen boys), what kind of messages does that send out to today’s young women…that our worth is only measured by the amount of flesh we flash, or the degree to which we agree to put up and shut up.  No wonder 60% of teenage girls aspire to becoming glamour models.  What else are we told we’re good for?


But then the bosses of the big Hollywood studios aren’t known for their imagination.  They fancy us girls will be happy as long as we have a few films about Bridesmaids or some unutterably dull ‘singleton’ (God I HATE that word) still fixated with diets, diapers and dodgy relationships.  Booooooo!


A colleague in the film business told me not long ago that Hollywood rarely gets good ideas for films, which is doubtless why they produce such a lot of unmitigated rubbish.  In her article, Alice Jones continues that only 4% of the directors, and 12.2% of the writers of the Top 100 Films are female.  What does this say?  That men write about men, for men, produce films about men for men to relate to, and that women don’t have anything worth writing about or portraying on the silver screen. Odd really when almost all the books currently in the best-selling paperback fiction lists are written by women.  And the stories they’re telling aren’t all cosy romances, or diaries where the heroine is still boring us with the size of her bum, or lack of a boyfriend (without which her life clearly has no meaning).


It’s up to us women writers to make sure we don’t take Hollywood’s disgraceful creative incapacity and blindness laying down.  There are 1001 stories by women of real courage, adventure and power that are being lived and written about every day, and we should make sure those stories are told, loud and bold.


And talking about bold talent, June’s Loose Muse will be featuring two fearless poets – the marvelous Steph Pike, and the masterful Charlotte Ansell, both making a return visit from their homes up North. Plus Special Guest Angela Stoner winging in from Penzance.  Another promise of wonder, so

Come share the passion, share the joy.




  1. Yes, I read the piece too, Agnes, and fumed – only 17% of plays performed in the UK are by women – grrrrr. The excellent organisation 17 Percent puts on staged readings of women’s work (it’s based in Kent).just to show the theatre oligarchs the finger!

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