Davis launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2007 and has been pointing out, ever since, that mainstream media both under-represents and mis-represents women and girls.

But the “entertainment” industry is also a role modeling / bias mapping factory.

So let’s take a closer look at what that might mean. Because the first thing she says, in this here video, is that 80% of the media consumed around the world is created in the United States.

Wiki vet that I am, the first thing I thought was {citation needed}. So I looked around a bit for a source. Not a lot of time. It didn’t take a lot of time to figure out there weren’t nufin der. Not on the web Google, not in the public library, not Chez Jeff.  The closest thing I could find was from FAIR. FAIR is an acronym for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Their tagline is “Challenging Media Bias Since 1986”. The piece was entitled The Global Media Giants. It was published in November 1997. Almost 20 years ago.

What could be wrong with that picture?

So I thought, “okay, let’s just look at the top 10 movies in the global market and look for the 2 that aren’t Made in USA.” Turns out, we can do better than that. Here’s a list of the Top 50 highest grossing films, compiled in 2016 – and I just know you’re going to be surprised. They’re all Hollywood extravaganzas — even the ones made Elsewhere in the Commonwealth (UK, Australia & New Zealand). All 50. Not one from outside The Box, let alone 20%. So that’s clearly not what Davis is talking about.

Ads, prolly. Whatevah.

All 50 of the world’s top 50 highest grossing films were directed by males. All but one of them is a male of European descent, mostly from the United States.

There was one lone Asian-Australian. James Wan’s Furious 7 came in at number 6.

The only male Lead that isn’t of European descent is The Jungle Book’s 10 year old Neel Sethi – understandably, thank you Rudyard.

So let’s just pull the movies with a female Lead and see what that scoop is. I’m not into Escape Fantasies, so I haven’t a clue. You could quite easily not have a clue either, so I also grabbed synopses from the-numbers.com, and keyword clouds.

1. In the #3 spot! Daisy Wrigley (UK) – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Daisy? Is that you?

Synopsis: Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku, and renegade stormtrooper FN-2187 (nickname “Finn”) embark with resistance pilot Poe Dameron on a quest to destroy Starkiller Base and search for Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi.

Keywords: Space Opera, Good vs. Evil, Delayed Sequel, Intertitle, Robot, Sequels With Returning Stars, Dysfunctional Family, Gratuitous Cameos

2. #9. Kristen Bell (US) – Frozen.

Synopsis: Fearless optimist Anna (Kristin Bell) sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Keywords: Sibling Rivalry, Romance, Love at First Sight, Royalty, Prince/Princess, Surprise Twist, 3-D

3. #11. Sandra Bullock (US) – Minions

Synopsis: Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters-from T. rex to Napoleon-the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression. But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he-alongside teenage rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob-ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master,  Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s first-ever female super-villain . They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in mod London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind…from annihilation.

Keywords: Prequel, Origin Story, Prehistoric Times, Dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, Pirates, Vampire, 1960s, Inventor, Royalty, London, Voiceover/Narration, Directing Yourself, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Super Villains, Cavemen, Intertitle, New York City, Antarctica, Orlando, Florida, Florida

4. #23 Mia Wasikowski (Australia) – Alice in Wonderland

Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.

Keywords: 3-D, Arranged Marriage, Talking Animals, Dragon, Animal Lead, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Non-Chronological, Sibling Rivalry, Twins, Hallucinations, IMAX: DMR, Live Action Cartoon

5. #26 Ginnifer Goodwin (US) – Zootopia

Synopsis: The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde, to solve the mystery.

Keywords: Beat Cops, Confidence Men, Talking Animals, Animal Lead, Missing Person, Bigotry, Government Corruption, Prologue, Bullies, Intertitle

6. #48 Jennifer Lawrence (US) – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games – a competition that could change Panem forever.

Keywords: Romance, Dystopia, Love Triangle, Ensemble, Political, Rebellion, Young Adult Book Adaptation, PTSD

7. #49 Amy Poehler (US) – Inside Out

Synopsis: Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is guided by her emotions, Fear, Anger, Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy (Amy Poehler), Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Keywords: Exploring a Character’s Mind, New Guy/Girl in School, Voiceover/Narration, Prologue, Hockey, Epilogue, Scene in End Credits, Depression, Runaway


What do you think? What kind of role modeling are all the world’s females getting? 4.5 out of 7 are Cartoons, so that provides a lot more flexibility. If you’re an 8 year old girl who doesn’t happen to be of European descent, for instance, you could still dream of growing up to be a teeny weeny bunny Cop, right?

Then there’s the Princess and the Reluctant Bride role model – always good to get another one of those rehearsals, you might be thinking – but.

The Alice is really quite amazing. I highly recommend it.


Geena Davis on The 17% Dilution (11 February 2013)

Stacy Smith on Story Felling (21 March 2017)

Get bold and watch the whole Bias Mapping thread in The Vault.


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2 thoughts on “The Davis Index

  • October 16, 2017 at 5:59 am

    we should stop saying “the web” when what we mean is “google”.Reference


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