Erik Sherman writes, "The lack of non-white actors in the Oscar nominations this year has sparked intense criticism. Some stars — director Spike Lee, actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith — have said they won’t attend the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. Meanwhile, the Academy has announced an overhaul to bring more diversity– women and people of color — to its ranks.
But a new study suggests that if Hollywood wants to improve the representation of minorities and women on screen, they better tackle who is hired behind the camera— the writers, producers and directors. When men are hired, they usually make movies about men.
In their study 'Hollywood’s Gender Divide and Its Effects on Films', television writer Lyle Friedman, data journalist Ilia Blinderman, and Matt Daniels, who co-founded visual pop culture storytelling site Polygraph, put 4,000 films from 1995 through 2015 through the 'Bechdel Test.' Named for graphic novelist Alison Bechdel (who credits her friend Liz Wallace for the idea), the test asks whether a fictional work has two female characters in a scene who talk to each other about something other than a man. ( 'It’s a low bar,' Friedman notes.)
By taking films already ranked on the Bechdel Test Movie List website and matching them to data on Amazon’s movie database IMDB.com, the three authors looked to see how many films in the 20 years could pass the test. Then they matched films to writers, producers, and directors and determined their gender."