The last time a film won Best Picture with an actress nominated for Best Actress (not Best Supporting Actress) was 2005 with Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. The majority of films nominated for Best Picture mostly tell stories about men and for men. This disproportionate representation is not new to anyone interested in feminism or film, but it still serves as an example of how our culture places men and their needs before those of women.
In a world where women were rejected or were dissuaded from even considering some occupations, Hollywood was different, at least in the beginning. A look at the data collected from films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards through the years shows that women were more involved in film production at the beginning of the film industry than might be expected. During the early years of the Oscars 44 percent of nominated films had at least one woman directing, producing, writing or editing those films. These numbers dip after 1939 and only return to 44 percent in the eighties. Since that time numbers have steadily increased. While there have been gains, it must be mentioned that the numbers from this decade are showing that there are still 37% of films that have zero women involved in these four production roles.
The number of woman-centered films has not seen the same increase as the amount of women involved in production. The early Hollywood days were the golden age of woman-centered films, with the number of leading ladies steadily declining since.
The reasons for this can only be guessed at. Maybe the film industry was not considered an entirely reliable industry or serious art form in the beginning, so outsiders were able to define it before white men recognized it as legitimate. Regardless of the cause, women’s stories and actresses lost their value in American culture over time.
On a hopeful note, more studios are waking up to the fact that audiences do enjoy stories about women or from women’s perspectives. One can only hope that the studios will move past reboots and tell more original stories, seeing as there is a wealth of untapped potential.