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What are the roles for women and girls Throughout the history of science fiction in science fiction and superhero and superhero films, women have rarely and ? Are they visible? Are they been the focus or the creators. These powerful? Are they inclusive? What do films have been mostly by, about, and for their representation, voice share, presence men or boys. Although films directed by — or absence — mean to the stories that women represent only 3 percent shape our of who we are and of the science fiction films released over what is possible? the last 10 years (men have directed a whopping 97 percent of the films), the These are some of the questions we situation is slowly changing, thanks to approached in a series of reports that the the activism of filmmakers, journalists, Women’s Media Center and BBC America and feminist advocates; some will with a goal of expanding both by studio heads; and demand from the diversity and the representation of whose evolving tastes crave women and girls in front of and behind more inclusion in front of and behind the the camera. “SuperPowering Women camera. Though the industry is far from in Science Fiction and Superhero Film representative or inclusive, never before — A Women’s Media Center Report in the history of have in Association with BBC America,” women had opportunities such as we’re our second joint study, explores the seeing now. While 10 years ago would overall history of female representation have been hard to find any major motion in front of and behind the camera in pictures in the sci-fi directed by and the science fiction and superhero film starring women or girls of color, 2018 saw and conducts a deeper dive into two of : A Wrinkle in , directed representation in the past decade. by Ava DuVernay and starring Storm

INTRODUCTION Reid, and The Darkest , directed by


29 FEMALE 66 14% MALE/ FEMALE 116 31% MALE 55%

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 4 and starring Amandla color, is still shockingly low. Of the 211 Stenberg. science fiction films with wide releases (1,000+ theaters) in the past 10 years With Kathleen Kennedy in charge at (2009–2018), only six (3 percent) were , the studio decided to take directed by women. Only 29 (14 percent) a risk with a female for the had a female solo lead; 66 (31 percent) of the franchise. Star had a female co-lead. Just two films Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) now were directed by women of color, and stands as the highest-grossing film of all these same two were the only ones that time (not adjusted for inflation). Money featured a female of color in a lead role: talks in Hollywood, and with those kinds the aforementioned A Wrinkle in Time of numbers, studios rushed to repeat that and . success, and this has meant more films with women in the leading roles, even With the production of films such as films in franchises that were traditionally Annihilation, : Fury Road, Ex aimed at primarily male audiences. Machina, and A Wrinkle in Time, there has been an encouraging uptick in For women behind the camera, Wonder opportunities for women in the last five Woman, which was directed by Patty years — particularly in front of the camera. Jenkins, has ended the argument as to whether sci-fi films directed by and From 2009 to 2013, 35 out of 98 sci-fi starring women can make money: Its films (36 percent) had female leads, with domestic box office sits at nearly $413 only 10 solo leads. But from 2014 to 2018, million. Disney greenlit Ava DuVernay’s 60 out of 113 sci-fi films (or 53 percent) A Wrinkle in Time, which made over had female leads, with 19 solo leads. For $100 million domestically and settled the comparison, 90 percent of sci-fi films debate as to whether films directed by between 2009 and 2013 had male leads, and starring women of color can make and 94 of the 113 (83 percent) of sci-fi money. There are no more excuses for films between 2014 and 2018 had male not having more women — of all races — leads, with 53 solo leads. This significant both in front of and behind the camera in increase in films with female leads resulted the sci-fi genre. from the new Star Wars films as well as and other young-adult The bad news is that the overall franchises that have proliferated. percentage of sci-fi films directed by or starring women, especially women of Behind the camera, however, the change has been much more incremental, with an increase of a meager 3 percentage


8 FEMALE 3% 223 MALE 97%

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 6 NUMBER AND PERCENTAGE OF SCI-FI/SUPERHERO FILMS EACH YEAR FROM 2009–2018 WITH MALE SOLO LEADS, FEMALE SOLO LEADS, MALE/FEMALE CO-LEADS

% 80 15 70 11 14 8 15 60 13 50 10 11 MALE/FEMALE 8 13 8 MALE 40 9 11 4 6 7 6 30 5 5 6 3 20 5 3 1 4 FEMALE 1 1 3 10 2 3 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 7 points in female directors (5 percent an Asian American woman — Birds of between 2014 and 2018 compared to (and the Fantabulous Emancipation 2 percent in the preceding five years); of One Harley Quinn) — which will be an increase of 5 percentage points in directed by Cathy Yan and is due to be female producers (20 percent between released in 2020. 2014 and 2018 compared to 15 percent between 2009 and 2013); and an increase We still have a long way to go to reach of 3 percentage points for female editors parity, but the is beginning to look (13 percent between 2014 and 2018 brighter. compared to 10 percent between 2009 and 2013). The percentage of women writers on sci-fi films actually decreased between 2014 and 2018 in comparison to the time frame of 2009 to 2013, from 8 percent to 7 percent.

Even with these poor numbers, there are glimmers of hope behind the camera. In the last five years, five sci-fi/superhero films (4 percent) had a female director, compared to just one of the sci-fi/ superhero films released between 2009 and 2013. In 2017, , which was directed by , was the first big-budget film directed by a woman in this genre, and in 2018, the first woman of color — Ava DuVernay — directed a big-budget science fiction film,A Wrinkle in Time. In March 2019, Marvel released its first female-led superhero film,Captain Marvel, co-written and co-directed by Anna Boden. Its $455 million opening weekend was the biggest ever for a female-led .

Soon to come are High Life, by legendary French director Claire Denis; and the first big-budget superhero film directed by



80 80 MEN

60 60

40 40

20 20 WOMEN

0 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018


80 80

60 60

40 40

20 20

0 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 9 A HISTORY OF WOMEN IN SCI-FI FILM

The science fiction genre has traditionally 1940s, and 1950s. In those early days, as served as fertile ground for storytellers women fought for more power in , to create imaginary creatures and sometimes they would be featured as and, in so doing, offer reflections upon scientists, but they were still not trusted to broader themes of , society, save the . and . Since the majority of those storytellers have been men, going all The best role a woman could hope for the way back to when movies were in the golden age of sci-fi — the late invented more than 100 years ago, the 1950s through the 1960s — was to be a perspective on the world that those films “mediator”: a scientist or a smart girl. The have reflected has been almost exclusively mediator is the who remains male. Women have served male-driven compassionate toward the or plots, mostly appearing either to be force that threatens humankind while rescued or to provide insight or greater translating to the patriarchal forces on the understanding of an alien world for the human side of things. Conrad calls out world of men. The Day the Stood Still (1951) as the genre rarity that features a “woman who In his Sirens, Scientists and saves the world” — the woman in this Princesses, Dean Conrad says the default case being Helen Benson, a young widow, for the science fiction genre is “men do portrayed by , who mediates things, women assist them.” For much between and the alien visitor of the early development of the sci-fi Klamath. Conrad likens Neal’s character genre in film, women were restricted by to those female voices of that societal and norms, functioning emerged in such high-profile sci-fi films mostly as what Conrad calls “serviceable as (1927), of the

HISTORY others” in the sci-fi films of the 1930s, (1968), and Arrival (2016).

10 On the other hand, many early sci-fi films these movies, Stratton points out, the replaced real women with representations women who rule the at the start of women who couldn’t be expected to end up destroyed, and the male adhere to tradition: How can you tell a end up with the power and a woman from another planet what is and of docile women to adore them. isn’t expected of her? Androids, AI, and women “found” on distant planets often Sci-fi films often present this quandary: served as convenient substitutes for Are the women actual women, or are they human women in sex . During the just a component of a complicated male 1950s, a whole subgenre of sci-fi cropped ? Conrad calls several modern sci-fi up that functioned as sanctioned softcore films that star women “look-at-her-ass SF” porn for a generation of young men for because the movie posters always feature whom sex was supposed to be off-limits. female actors in sexy looking over their shoulders, their highlighted In her video “Lady Lands,” posteriors tightly encased in a sexy space Catherine Stratton of the streaming suit. Presumably this is because the films channel and film site Fandor focuses on — even if they now star women — are three films — 1958’sQueen of Outer still aimed at mostly male audiences. To Space, 1953’s -Women of the guarantee the highest opening-weekend (“Incidentally, where are your menfolk?”), box office numbers, the and 1956’s Fire Maidens of message still must be that this is a — as examples of what she calls a transactional experience for young men: “subgenre of sci-fi B movies about worlds Come see this movie starring a woman, men. … Lady Lands are not- and you will not be disappointed. so-thinly-veiled fantasy stories for men, disguised by female empowerment.” In Women have long fought against this

11 enduring notion that to be in sci-fi, they showed everyone what she could must offer up sexuality. The feminist do — and do mostly without makeup in movement had a significant impact on a green flight suit throughout the film Hollywood, as did the Black Power and — her character became an icon of the civil rights movements of the . genre. Even now, stands out Women in science fiction up to that point in the history of sci-fi as one of the most generally did not drive the , compelling protagonists ever put to although there were a few notable screen, and not just because she was a characters from the 1960s, such as Kim female in a traditionally male role. Weaver Hunter’s Zira in and portrays Ripley as someone who is on Jane Fonda’s character in Barbarella. the Nostromo because she, more so than It really wouldn’t be until Carrie Fisher many of her male counterparts, is a savvy, played in Star Wars (1977), resourceful, and capable officer with an and especially when indomitable will to survive. starred as Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979), that women started to be thought of as SEXUALITY AND CHANGE protagonists in science fiction film. It is noting that Ripley’s role was It is less rare now than it once was to see originally written for a man, which could a female in a sci-fi film whose account for the lack of female is not based on her sexuality. Those “norms” attached to the character and females tend to appear in films where story. there aren’t male protagonists driving the or where the female protagonist is In some ways, the history of women in a pre-pubescent girl. Sexuality in a film science fiction film can be understood in where women are concerned is often like terms of pre-Alien and post-Alien. a loaded gun — sooner or later someone

12 is going to pull the trigger. Sex will be had evolution of sci-fi films over the past five because the female has appeared. years. In addition to her role in Under the Skin, Johansson played a young One of the best examples of this woman injected with drugs to become is the 1995 filmSpecies , in which in Lucy, an AI who connects Natasha Henstridge plays a genetically on a deeply personal level with Joaquin engineered human-alien hybrid who Phoenix’s character in Her, and an tries to find a male mate in order to in Ghost in the Shell. While Johansson’s reproduce. Henstridge is the classic career in sci-fi has been prolific, it is not white male ideal: tall, buxom, blond, and without controversy. Her role in Ghost in aggressively sexual, showing her naked the Shell, which is based on a Japanese body throughout the film, although series, was faced with backlash every so often, we also get a glimpse of after claims of whitewashing by who the alien underneath. This same believed that the role should have runs through Under the Skin (2013), with to an Asian American actress instead. The covering up a not-so- whitewashing becomes obvious when we appealing alien underneath. These films see that the changes the give women a chance to express that what character’s name from Motoko Kusanagi is on the outside doesn’t always reflect to Mira Killian in order to change the what is on the inside, even if many viewers role to suit Johansson. It has also been write the characters off as yet another announced that Johansson will star in male sexual fantasy. a film wholly dedicated to her Marvel character, Black Widow. If it’s true, as Scarlett Johansson in particular has Conrad observes, that sci-fi often reflects functioned as a sci-fi , the anxiety of the patriarchy at a given particularly when one is looking at the point in time, then Johansson’s persona

13 might be something they can’t quite is primarily about a hit man, the “looper,” define — someone who is the patriarchy’s played by both Bruce Willis and Joseph sexual and physical ideal while also being Gordon-Levitt, but Blunt plays a key role someone who is clearly brilliant. That as the mother of the Rainmaker, the evil makes her a good fit for modern-day sci-fi, force of the future they’re trying to kill. as are , who starred in Her young son could grow up to become the Star Wars series and Annihilation, and evil, or he could, as Blunt’s character , who portrayed the lead says, use the force for good. A couple character Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. of years later, Blunt established herself as an action heroine in ’s In both Annihilation and Mad Max: Fury . Not many actors can Road, what’s going on in the hearts and steal a film when the lead is , minds of the female protagonists who but Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, the “Angel of drive the is more important Verdun,” is a no-nonsense, ass-kicking than what their bodies can do for men. soldier who whips Cruise’s snively William (Annihilation is particularly notable for Cage into fighting shape. Finally, Blunt featuring a team of five women — played appeared in ’s 2018 sci- by , Natalie Portman, fi horror filmA Quiet Place. Blunt and Tuva Novotny, , and Gina Krasinski, who are married in , Rodriguez — who lead the adventure.) the heads of a family trying to survive A handful of recent films have featured an . By of the film, similar characters — women who are not Blunt and her deaf daughter, portrayed obliged to pull the sex trigger — such by Millicent Simmonds, become its as Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra through their discovery of the key Bullock, in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, and to defeating the extraterrestrial threat. Dr. Louise Banks, played by , (The that Millicent Simmonds is deaf in ’s Arrival. ’s was noted by observers who point out The features a male protagonist, that although sci-fi often uses disability but the commander (played by Jessica analogies, it offers few roles to actors with Chastain) is a woman, as in the book on disabilities.) which the film is based. Driving this change in how women has been a pivotal figure in are being portrayed is Hollywood’s the genre recently, having appeared in recognition that our culture is changing three high-profile sci-fi films in the past and that films with strong female seven years. In 2012, she appeared as an characters can attract different types of iconic mother figure who helps to save the ticket buyers. The young-adult genre is world in ’s Looper. The film especially strong, primarily because of

14 female ticket buyers, with franchises such in the sci-fi/superhero genre. It also as The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer became the first superhero movie ever Lawrence, the series, starring to receive an Oscar nomination for Best , Ava DuVernay’s A Picture. While the film’s central is Wrinkle in Time, and The Darkest Minds, male, females do most of the heroic directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. These work. The tech whiz Shuri () films exist because Hollywood now knows outsmarts most of the male characters, that young girls in large numbers are a the fierce warrior () is profitable demographic worth paying the most sought-after fighter, and Nakia attention to. (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o) drives the narrative toward using the power of Women in science fiction have been Wakanda to help -dwelling African almost exclusively white, with a few Americans. exceptions, most notably Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura in the first sixStar Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time was the first Trek films (a role that originated in the sci-fi film backed by a major studio to star 1966–69 television series). Ryan Coogler’s a black heroine, played by Storm Reid. Black Panther (2018) represented a Ava DuVernay’s film earned over $100 dramatic departure from this pattern. With million at office, a fraction of a cast of black women driving the action, Black Panther’s $700 million but more than Black Panther has become the third- enough to indicate that there are ticket highest domestic-grossing film of all time buyers out there who want to see sci-fi — earning $700 million domestically and films by and about women/girls of color. an additional $1.35 billion internationally — dispelling any questions about whether women of color can be a profitable draw

15 THE HERO’S JOURNEY / GENDER SWAP One way that filmmakers have been able to introduce women as heroes is with In his book, Dean Conrad summarizes gender swapping — taking a traditional Joseph Campbell’s definition of the hero’s character, such as in journey as follows: the Star Wars series, and substituting a female, such as Daisy Ridley as . 1. The Call to Adventure 2. Refusal of the Call This form of gender swap shows up in 3. Aid films such asMad Max: Fury Road. In 4. The Crossing of the First Threshold that film, Mad Max himself is sidelined, 5. The Belly of the Whale and Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is the driving force in the film to lead what’s In looking over sci-fi film history, it is left of humankind toward survival and striking to see just how few women have redemption. been granted such a journey. Women are most often aiding the journey of the With regard to the superhero franchises film’s hero. But there have been a handful that dominate mainstream releases, it is of female characters whose own journey worth noting that Hollywood’s obsession is at the film’s center, including those with superhero films has revolved almost played by in , Sandra exclusively around the male characters, Bullock in Gravity, and Natalie Portman in such as , , and Spider- Annihilation. Man. was played by in 1994’s , and The character Sarah Connor, by in an eponymous 2004 portrayed by , marked a movie. But those brief appearances were breakthrough for female characters in this the exception. In 2017 DC finally allowed respect. Before (1984), Wonder Woman to have her own movie, even under the best of circumstances starring and directed by Patty (think Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Jenkins. This will be followed this year by Wars), women were generally excluded Alita: Angel, staring Rosa Salazar, from the hero’s journey. But in The and in 2020 by a film featuring Harley Terminator, Sarah Connor goes from naive Quinn. Like Wonder Woman, it will have waitress to hardened warrior. In the follow- a female director, Cathy Yan. Wonder up Terminator 2, Sarah Connor is sidelined Woman 1984 — a to the first for the father/son story between her son Wonder Woman film and again starring and a machine, but her role in the original Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins film was the first of its kind. — is also due to be released in 2020.

16 who had a vivid and memorable sense of This year, the Marvel Cinematic self; she didn’t exist merely to complete has finally released its first female-led film, the male protagonist, as the female AI in Captain Marvel, starring and Runner 2049 does. directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Marvel will follow up with Black Widow, The agency of female leads was also directed by Cate Shortland. It took a greatly diminished in . movement by Marvel fans to push for the The female characters in , Black Widow movie to be greenlit, even Arianna Richards’ Lex though its star, Scarlett Johansson, has and ’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, were had prominent roles in numerous science swapped for a boy dinosaur nerd and fiction and fantasy films (as discussed ’s Claire Dearing. above). As of late 2018, Screenrant, an Dearing is a walking cliché, an oblivious independent movie and TV , female who knows next to nothing about was reporting that there are 11 female and cares only about driving superhero movies in the works, including profit, until (of course) she falls in love with those featuring Black Widow, Silk, Batgirl, the much smarter and physically endowed Ironheart, and Gotham City Sirens. male hero. Dern’s character, which sprang from ’s book, is strong, Even as women are getting key roles in complex, and competent. Lex was some sci-fi films, there are more than a rewritten from the novel to be savvy with few high-profile examples of recent films , and ends up saving the day in which the role of women has been with tech smarts, even if she doesn’t seem greatly diminished. Denis Villeneuve’s to get dinosaurs or the natural world. To 2017 release, 2049, turned replace these characters with an awkward the iconic female from both boy geeking out about dinosaurs and Phillip K. Dick’s source material and a feckless female out of her depth was Ridley Scott’s 1982 cinematic version a major regression in terms of gender into nothing more than submissive eye representation. candy. Although does have some female characters who are Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley controlling, evil, monstrous people or notwithstanding, much of the time in sci-fi replicants, the main female character, the female character fades as the male the one ’s character falls hero rises. For instance, in the original for, is nothing more than his fantasy. This , by Return of the , contrasts strongly with ’s Princess Leia was known primarily for her Rachael from the firstBlade Runner, who skimpy metallic bikini — a far cry from did not know she was a but the tough-talking princess from the first

17 film. InTerminator 2: Judgment Day, Other films with female writers/directors Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor emerged were ignored, sent straight to video on toned and muscular and toting a gun as demand, or panned by critics. The limited a new feminist film icon. But her physical opportunities for female directors in transformation really served only to help the genre are reflective of both a male- protect her son, John. And in the end, she dominated legacy and a risk- wasn’t the one who defeated the T-1000 averse Hollywood economy. sent to kill John, whereas at the end of the firstTerminator , she single- Sci-fi films have traditionally been a place handedly destroyed the killer cyborg where male fantasy has been explored; chasing after her. flipping that perspective to show the fantasy worlds women want to explore has The problem with Terminator when it been rare. This is especially puzzling given comes to women is that Sarah Connor, the legacy of the female voice in science like the Virgin Mary, seems to exist fiction , which boasts high-profile only to give birth to the future savior of women writers such as , mankind: Even ’s initials Ursula K. Le Guin, and N.K. Jemisin. match those of Jesus Christ. She is only However, movies based on their work known or appreciated or saved because have yet to make it to the forefront. The she ultimately gives birth to him. As such, wild success of The Handmaid’s Tale, the each Terminator sequel after the first Hulu series adapted from the Margaret two revolved around John Connor or the Atwood novel, suggests that television Terminator, with Sarah Connor there only and streaming may allow for more risk- as background material. That said, James taking without the pressure of a big Cameron is writing and producing a sixth box-office opening. It’s worth noting that Terminator film, and Linda Hamilton will DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time was based return as Sarah Connor. Given the greater on Madeleine L’Engle’s classic young- status being given to women in recent adult book, adapted by and sci-fi films, will she play a more prominent Jeff Stockwell. On the whole, though, in part? the sci-fi , women as visionaries have been locked out. BEHIND THE CAMERA In many ways, the exclusion of female Finding sci-fi films directed by women directors in Hollywood is due to box-office over the past 10 years is not easy. Of pressure and the long track record of male 211 sci-fi films in wide release in the directors in the genre. Studios’ adherence last 10 years, only six were directed to the model of male monopolizing by women — a shockingly low figure. sci-fi films comes down to economics.

18 When a formula worked, they stayed women should not be allowed to direct with that formula until it no longer made the genre at all. Since then, we have money. And the formula was: Men can also had (2012) and Jupiter direct sci-fi that makes money, and women Ascending (2015) from . can’t. But one can’t help wondering if, back in 1999, Warner Bros. would have entrusted In her March 16, 2018 piece for The ’s $60m budget to a couple Guardian, “The Final Frontier: How of relative unknowns if they had been Female Directors Broke Into Sci-Fi,” film called Lilly and Lana, instead of Larry and Anne Billson wrote, “It was seen Andy.” And while male directors can have as a job for the boys. That’s changing one box office failure and still get work, thanks to the likes of Ava DuVernay, Patty women often don’t. Jenkins, and Claire Denis being given opportunities to oversee big-budget As a result, Hollywood has been productions.” notoriously gun-shy when it comes to female directors, especially women of Films like ’s Strange Days color. This is why Disney’s investment (1995) and Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact in Ava DuVernay’s vision for A Wrinkle (1998) were not seen as game changers, in Time was viewed as a gamble, even even though Deep Impact cost $75 million though DuVernay was already a proven and made $140 million domestically, success by the time the film was made. delivering a notable profit for the studio. The studio had the money and the bold Strange Days, however, cost $42 million vision to take what was perceived as and earned only $8 million domestically. a risk and, in giving DuVernay such a Billson wrote, “It was a resounding flop, big-budget concept sci-fi film, helped which no doubt convinced studios that kick down a door. DuVernay herself has

19 said, “I think that black people making International Asian American , women making art, and certainly Best Narrative Feature Award, and several black women making art is a disruptive others. Yet Phang’s career did not take off. endeavor.” Phang didn’t make another feature until Advantageous, seven years after Half Life. Like Strange Days and Deep Impact, A Wrinkle in Time had a mixed critical Other female sci-fi of note include reception. But its $100 million box office Sophie Barthes, whose Cold (2009), take ensures DuVernay’s place as one of starring , made just $1.13 the few women behind the camera who million, Marina Kunarova, director of can drive box office with her name and Hunting (2014), and Claire innovative subject . Carré, whose well-reviewed Embers was released in 2015. In the past 10 years, there has been a slow and steady increase in female Additionally, the December 2018 release filmmakers bringing their vision to the Bird Box, directed by and big screen, and even though their films written by (who also wrote aren’t well known or celebrated with ), broke records with more same kind of fanfare as those of their male than 45 million accounts watching the film counterparts, they are worth noting. in its first week of release.

Jennifer Phang directed and co-wrote Women for sci-fi films have Advantageous, released in 2015. The been just as rare as women directors for New York critic sci-fi films, with a few notable exceptions wrote about it, “Every so often, though, over the past 40 years. a small-scale, thoughtful movie like wrote the for E.T. the Extra- Advantageous comes along and summons Terrestrial (1982), a massive blockbuster up a speculative new world with brains, that netted her an Oscar nomination. some frugal sleight of hand and the cool With , sci-fi Leigh confidence that, in the future, our greatest Brackett co-wrote the screenplay for The threat won’t be rampaging or alien Empire Strikes Back. Suzanne Collins, invasions but the same hard-charging the author of the Hunger Games series, menace that’s haunted the planet since co-wrote the adapted screenplay for the time immemorial — people.” firstHunger Games film. Amanda Silver, Advantageous was Phang’s second sci-fi along with her writing partner Rick Jaffe, film, afterHalf Life, released in 2008. Half has written the screenplays for a number Life won the Gen Festival Acura of recent sci-fi blockbusters, including Grand Jury Award, the Jurassic World and all three of the new

20 Planet of the Apes trilogy. Hollywood. According to box office tracking site Box Office Mojo, of the For the number of female-written and 211 sci-fi and superhero films with wide -directed science fiction films to increase, releases (1,000+ theaters) in the last 10 studios and audiences need to be open years, 104 made at least $100 million to different perspectives. As Billson domestically at the box office. A little points out, this is not going to happen less than half of these 104 films (48) have easily. Men tend to be territorial when it starred women in lead roles. But looking comes to the genre, in terms of both the more closely, it becomes clear that films superhero empires and traditional science grossing $100+ million starring only fiction. “Sci-fi is a cultural Custer’s Last women in the lead have been rarer — Stand for bigotry,” says Billson. 14 films, several of which are from the Hunger Games or Divergent series or the What women directors need more than new Star Wars films. anything is that their vision of sci-fi is valid, even if it is different from A female character leading a major sci-fi what has come before. In 1968, Stanley franchise has been rare. For the longest Kubrick’s 2001: A shocked time there really was only Sigourney audiences with its bold new vision of what Weaver in the Alien series. Jennifer sci-fi films could be, but its release is now Lawrence, however, with the Hunger viewed as a turning point in the history Games series, has reset the bar for what of sci-fi. Surely its impact is an argument is possible for women in the era of high- for people to keep minds open to the concept sci-fi, franchises, and .The different perspectives that might be Hunger Games opened the door for the coming from the other 50 percent of and a slew of other sci-fi human race. films adapted from young-adult . Meanwhile, Wonder Woman was the first superhero movie to star a woman in over a decade, and now the sequel is in post- production. Captain Marvel followed in 2019, and all of these films were backed up by an impressive box-office take. Marvel’s Black Widow and Warner Bros./ BOX OFFICE DC’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) need Box office has become even more only make the same kind of money to important than winning Oscars in provide justification for making more films determining who gets the power in of this kind.

21 million, which also makes it the highest- In 1979, Alien, which revolutionized how grossing sci-fi film with a solo female lead women in sci-fi were portrayed, was the of all-time. fifth-highest grosser of the year, earning $80 million domestically (Kramer vs. Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, the Kramer topped the domestic box office first wide-release sci-fi film directed by at $106 million). When ’s a woman of color, is also the first sci-fi The Terminator came out in 1984 and film directed by a woman to make $100 gave sci-fi its first female with her own million at the domestic box office. On the hero’s journey, it earned just $38 million superhero film side, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder and ranked 21st at the box office for the Woman became the highest domestic- year. But in the era of VHS, The Terminator grossing female-directed film of all time at became a cult classic. In 1991, when $413 million. Cameron brought back Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, it easily topped the box International box office is growing in office and earned a then-record-breaking importance. What both domestic and $204 million. international numbers tell is that films based on comic , , or previous In 1993, Jurassic Park, starring Laura Dern films tend to do better. High-concept as a feisty paleobiologist, easily topped sci-fi is almost guaranteed to make money the box office with $357 million. After overseas even if it doesn’t make money Jurassic Park, there wouldn’t be another in the U.S. For example, Mad Max: Fury film with a female lead taking the number Road earned $154 million domestically one spot for the year until , also and $224 million overseas, and Wonder directed by James Cameron, appeared Woman made a whopping $413 million in in 2009. It was another four years before international box office. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with , topped the domestic As long as women are given the chance box office with $425 million in 2013, to continue to work in high-concept sci-fi, making it the first sci-fi film with a solo especially when those films are attached female lead to reach number one for the to a franchise, they will have a better year. That was the same year that Gravity, chance of achieving parity in the genre. starring , topped out at number six at the box office with $274 million domestically. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with , would later match Catching Fire’s feat and top the 2016 domestic box office with $532


119 WOMEN 1434 12% MEN 88%

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 23 CONCLUSION film in terms of representation in front of the camera (and behind the camera, as When you start at representation of only Lina Wertmuller became the first female 3 percent, moving the dial up should not director to be nominated for an Academy be a heavy lift. The forecast for sci-fi and Award in 1977), it did not last. No woman superhero films by and about women would even be nominated again for looks promising, and there appears to be Best Director until got some momentum — and a demonstrated the nod in 1994, 17 years later. Women, . More women are buying especially women of color, still face a tickets to see movies they’re interested dearth of opportunities compared to in, rather than those that follow the same their male counterparts in Hollywood. reliable formula delivered every summer, Too often they’re given just one chance with plots that revolve around a male to prove themselves. Fortunately, those hero. The Hunger Games and Divergent who are leading the charge for change — franchises are successful because of activist filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, female ticket buyers. Wonder Woman, actresses such as , fast- Black Panther, and even the updated growing on social media, Star Wars franchises all prove that when studios that have implemented direct women participate as ticket buyers, profits action campaigns for inclusion riders — rise significantly. The question is how to do not appear to be stopping any time make this a lasting change rather than just soon. The factor that can give these a trend. changes staying power is impressive box office numbers. What makes it a trend is the excitement around successful films. But diligence With filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, and activism are needed for lasting Patty Jenkins, Cathy Yan, Claire Denis, change: actresses speaking out against and Jennifer Yuh Nelson continuing to pay inequality, the focus of the 2018 redefine what women can do behind Golden Globes and the camera, and with their films drawing ceremonies on the #MeToo and #TimesUp impressive box office numbers, there is movements, studio heads such as no reason why there should not be more Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy pushing women directing both superhero and for more inclusion in franchise films, science fiction films. Female-driven sci-fi and ticket buyers who have organized and superhero films are even more on boycotts and supported films and film the rise, with the success of The Force projects that offer more parity. While the Awakens, Wonder Woman, Captain feminist movement in the 1970s gave Marvel, and so many more. Their success rise to one of the best eras for women in could give women the power they need to

24 compete in a market that for decades has been dominated by men.

Women making films in sci-fi are not just redefining the genre. In a sense, they are inventing a new one, one that is no longer a fantasy canvas for men. As Billson says, “It’s not that we need more kick-ass sci-fi heroines so much as a wider perspective on technological and ethical issues in the imagined future.” The more familiar audiences become with the fantasy worlds women can imagine, the more open they will be to breaking through to new worlds. Let the revolution begin.


14 FEMALE 34 13% MALE/ FEMALE 56 33% MALE 54%

Produced by the Women’s Media Center and in association with BBC America Source: IMDb and Box Office Mojo; Analysis: Women’s Media Center/BBC America 26 METHODOLOGY

This analysis was conducted using primarily from the Box Office Mojo and IMDb on science fiction and superhero films receiving wide release (1,000+ theaters) domestically from January 2009 through December 2018. Although there is considerable overlap of genre classification between the two sites, there is still an inherent degree of subjectivity when determining whether a film falls under the umbrella of science fiction. Consequently, there are a number of films where genre assignment was determined by the researchers‘ best judgment. Similarly, determining whether a performance is lead or supporting and a co-lead or a solo lead is, to a certain extent, a matter of interpretation, so again the researchers’ best judgment was relied upon in classifying certain roles. METHODOLOGY

27 Research, Reports, , and Content Channels

Women’s Media Center Status of Women in U.S. Media (2019, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012) WMC Divided: The Media Gender Gap (2019, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012) Women’s Media Center Status of Women of Color in the U.S. News Media (2018) Media and #MeToo: The WMC Report (2018) SuperPowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi SuperHero Genre” (2018 — WMC and BBC America Report) WMC Media Watch: Women & Elections — Where Voters Saw the Most Sexist Treatment of Women Candidates in Media (2016) WMC Media Watch: Women & Elections — #WhoTalks — U.S. Presidential Election Tracking of Cable/ TV News Show Analysts by Gender and Race (2016) (Partnership project with the Rutgers Center for American Women and and GenderAvenger) WMC Investigation: Analysis of Gender & Non-Acting Oscar Nominations (2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010) WMC Investigation: 10-Year Review of Gender & Oscar Nominations in Non-Acting Categories (2016) WMC Investigation: Analysis of Gender & Primetime Non-Acting Emmy Nominations (2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012) WMC Investigation: 10-Year Review of Gender & Emmy Nominations in Non-Acting Categories (2015) WMC Media Watch: The Gender Gap in Coverage of Reproductive Issues (2016) WMC Media Watch: Writing — How U.S. Media Cover Campus Rape and Sexual Assault (2015) The Women’s Media Center Guide to Covering Reproductive Issues Name It Change It: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Candidates 10 Do’s and Don’ts on How to Interview Sexualized Violence Survivors (2017) Name It Change It: An Examination of the Impact of Media Coverage of Women Candidates’ Appearance Name It Change It — WMC Infographic — Stick Figures Explain Negative Impact of Appearance Coverage on Women Candidates (2013) Bias, Punditry, and the Press — Where Do We Go From Here? (2008) (Report from the Women’s Media Center, the White House Project, and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education) Unspinning the : The Women’s Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language (2014) WMC Women Under Siege Syria Crowdmap WMC Women Under Siege Reports: Sexualized Violence in Zones WMC Speech Project Wheel of Online Abuse and Harassment (2016) WMC News and Features WMC FBomb WMC Speech Project WMC Live with Robin Morgan


BBC America is thankful to the Galaxy of The Women’s Media Center thanks Women in front of and behind the camera, our co-founders, Jane Fonda, Robin and the powerful communities that Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, for their amplify and inspire these stories. vision and leadership. Our research on the representation of women in media is made possible through the generous support of The Novo , The Streisand Foundation, Jane Fonda, The Libra Foundation, and The Starry Night Fund. We are grateful to them for standing with us in our fight for equality, inclusion, and culture change.


Sasha Stone is a graduate of UCLA’s Producer Theater, Film and Television program and Kate McCarthy has been writing about and researching film for over 20 years. In addition to Editor running the website AwardsDaily.com, she Barbara Findlen has written for outlets such as The Wrap, Copy Editor , and Variety. Faye Wolfe

Marshall Flores is a deputy editor at Fact Checker AwardsDaily.com. In addition to being a Krista Hojnowski vocal proponent of the Oxford comma, he is an avid researcher of film history, Research Associate with a particular interest in using statistical Tiffany Nguyen methods to analyze industry trends over WMC Art Director time. Diahann Hill

Report Design Vision + Code

WMC Social Media Frances Nguyen

WMC Communications Cristal Williams Chancellor

WMC President Julie Burton

BBCA Executive Director Courtney Thomasma

BBCA Communications Katie Lanegran