Geena Davis On Her Efforts For Gender Equality In Hollywood, Reflects On ‘A League Of Their Own’ 30th Anniversary

She’s the leading lady behind some of the most memorable cinematic performances in recent history – but these days Geena Davis keeps much of her attention off-screen, making sure Hollywood better represents the real world in its own right. storytelling today.

Since 2004, Davis, 66, has been the founder and president of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a nonprofit that examines its own research on the intersectional on-screen representation of six identities: gender, race, LGBTQIA+, disability, age 50+, and body type. For the past 18 years, Davis and her team have worked to champion people of all backgrounds in film and television by ending unconscious bias, promoting inclusion, and eliminating negative stereotypes in global media.

“We are very pleased to see the significant progress toward our goals,” Davis told me during our Zoom chat. “I started this because I wanted to change what kids see first because I noticed when my daughter was very small, that movies and videos for very small children, there seemed to be a lot of imbalance between the sexes, where there were very masculine characters. I was like What are we doing in the 21st century to show children an unequal world? I didn’t intend to make it my life’s mission (Laughs).”

What started as simple careful observations by this mother of three has turned into a full-fledged mission for nearly two decades now, with the findings of Davis and her team (all publicly available on his website) upsetting Hollywood.

“Once I had the research and started meeting with studios and pitching them, they were blown away,” Davis continues. “They were absolutely amazed at how many female characters they left out. Today, female lead characters in made-for-kids television and made-for-kids movies have reached parity, which is very different from when we started. This is one of our goals. My other big goal is to make the world the film is told reflect real life – 50% women, 40% people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ – that’s my goal.

Davis continues to applaud other actresses like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin for asking for more pay in their lead roles on Grace and Frankie, when they realized that their show’s supporting male actors were paid the same as them. Davis attributes much of the credit for better treatment and pay for actresses in Hollywood to one specific group that has emerged in recent years.

“Since ‘Me Too’ in my industry there has been a huge shift in the mood of Hollywood because it was always the case for me and my peers that you would never complain about the salary. It wouldn’t come to you. didn’t even mind that you would expect the same salary as the male star. You couldn’t tell if you were being treated unfairly and that kind of thing because they’re just gonna get somebody else. The women were unnecessary in my films, but everything changed when “Me Too” came along because then, not only was it good to talk about sexual harassment and gender inequality issues, but it was good to talk about your salary and not be punished for it.

After Davis’ popular starring roles throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, she recalls noticing studio interest and her opportunities in Hollywood began to dwindle once she turned 40.

Thinking back to the rather abrupt change from being widely in demand to barely working, Davis recalls: “It was tough. I mean, it’s still hard. It’s not like you get more and more coins the older you get. For me, I had played such amazing characters. I had like some of the best roles there and then for that to fall I was like Wait a minute! What’s going on?

Despite the setbacks in his professional career, Davis has turned his frustrations into purpose through his continued efforts with his nonprofit organization. When I mentioned to Davis the few popular series today with female lead characters over 40 like And just like that, hacksand Grace and Frankieshe replies: “It’s fantastic! Easttown Mare and all these stories are great. On streaming shows, there’s huge progress being made, I have to say. Especially for women, they do much better behind the scenes with female directors, producers, and screenwriters. Everything is better on TV.

In 2022, Davis certainly has a lot to celebrate, including the 30th anniversary of his 1992 film. A league apartthe beloved fictional tale surrounding the very real group of hardworking female baseball players who rose to the front and challenged gender stereotypes during World War II.

Reflecting these three decades later on the timeless popularity of that movie and its iconic role as Rockford Peaches catcher Dottie Hinson, Davis says, “I couldn’t believe they were making that movie and I had to play that role in it. It was amazing because there were so few movies where it was about women – it was from a women’s point of view. I had just been in Thelma and Louise and this film made me realize how little opportunity we give women to walk out of a theater feeling empowered and inspired. It made me think that I wanted to try to be in movies that could potentially have that reaction, where women could walk out of the movie feeling good about my character – and then be able to play Dottie like my next role was amazing.

The endless admiration for the kinds of empowering stories led by women that A league apart brought to the screen continues today with the new A league apart television the series will premiere on Prime Video on August 12.

Being the fearless on-screen lead of the movie version, I wondered if Davis had ever seen any photos or the trailer for the new series. She replies, “No, I haven’t, but I’ve known that since they first thought of it. The producers called me and said they were doing it and they kind of wanted to get my blessing or something. I was like Yeah! I can not wait. I am happy. I think that’s great. I’m so glad it’s not our characters, you know? That’s a whole other story. I give it my seal of approval.

Even with her many engagements at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media today, Davis remains a dedicated professional in Hollywood. She has just finished filming a new project titled Fairyland and work on financing Cowgirl’s Last Ride before the start of production.

As Davis fans continue to wait for her to reprise some of her most iconic roles, Davis leaves herself open to continuing as Barbara Maitland after the dark comedy sensation of 1988. beetle juice. Discussing rumors of a sequel over the past three decades, Davis says, “They started talking about it very soon after this one came out and they’ve been talking about it all this time and I’ve always said Yeah, I’ll be in!

Davis also plans to publish a new memoir in October titled die of politenessbut tells me that the subtitle of the book that won’t be on the cover is My trip to Badassery. “I was a badass in my roles before I was in real life, so it’s kind of about how the roles I’ve played have had a huge impact on my real life. I changed my life, changed my personality, changed everything.

As I began to wrap up my conversation with Davis, I left her with one last question: what message could you have for women and men of all walks of life who may have been “locked up” in Hollywood and had the Feel like they really didn’t get a fair shot with roles? Knowing that you have already been in their shoes, what would you like to say to these people?

“I would say we can be optimistic about on-screen representation because there is tremendous interest from all studios and networks to be more inclusive. Their departments have grown. When we started, every studio had a diversity director, but they never thought about women. It was people of color and we got them all to add women to the underrepresented, but I think we’re making a lot of progress. I am optimistic that more people will be able to see themselves reflected on the screen.

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