Jacki Zehner On Women, Money, and Changing the World  » FROZEN Breaks Records and Cracks the Hollywood Glass Ceiling

April 01, 2014

FROZEN Breaks Records and Cracks the Hollywood Glass Ceiling

FrozenPublished on LinkedIn Influencers on April 1st, 2014

This past weekend, Disney’s animated hit Frozen passed a historic landmark. Not only has Frozen become Walt Disney Animation Studio’s first billion dollar movie, but Frozen surpassed Pixar’s Toy Story 3 to become the highest grossing animated film of all time. Frozen currently sits in the top 10 highest grossing films worldwide, and with co-director Jennifer Lee at the helm, Frozen is also the highest grossing film with a woman director, and the highest grossing film to feature not one, but two female leads.

However, that’s not all Frozen has achieved, because this film is not just a hit, it’s become a pop culture phenomenon. The internet is filled with covers of its ubiquitous smash hit song, “Let it Go”, fan art abounds on social media, as does fan fiction, Youtube videos, and blogs dissecting every moment of every scene. The film has won Oscars, Annies, a BAFTA and Golden Globe award, and both the DVD and soundtrack have sold millions of copies. Frozen has struck a very powerful and vocal chord with audiences, and everyone; girls, boys, men, and women, are voicing their love for this film in ever increasingly creative ways.

Even more impressive is the fact that Frozen is not just an anomaly regarding women in film, but in fact was released in one of the best years for women onscreen in decades. 2013 will be remembered as the year that Catching Fire was the top grossing film domestically, the first time since records were kept that a film with a sole female lead took this honor. This was also the year that Gravity shattered box office records with its release in October, and over the Thanksgiving weekend, both Frozen and Catching Fire burned up the box office, bringing in record revenues. 2013 was the year that three films with female leads were in the top ten highest grossing films domestically, with another two (Despicable Me 2 and Oz the Great and Powerful) featuring a male lead surrounded by women and girls. However, as impressive as these numbers are, my hope for 2013′s legacy is that people finally realize how important the intent behind their tickets can be.

The fact is, despite the success of 2013, the situation in Hollywood regarding women both onscreen and off is still far from perfect. Even when the top grossing film of the year features a female lead, Hollywood still considers these films to be risky and a niche market. Behind the camera, women make up 50% of all film school graduates, but only 18% of the directors whose films screened at festivals between August 2011 and August 2012, 13.5% of the members of the Directors Guild of America, and 7% of the directors of the Top 250 grossing films between 2009-2012. I could throw plenty more statistics at you, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and this info graphic from the New York Film Academy sums up the situation pretty succinctly. It’s also pretty depressing.

However, if people were to realize the power they wield in simply going to the movies, then change can happen. By supporting women directed or women centered films, you are sending the message that women’s voices and stories are a viable business and worth putting on the big screen. By rejecting misogynistic and sexist films, you are sending the message that the discrimination and objectification of women on screen will no longer be tolerated. The truth is money talks, especially in Hollywood, and it is my hope that going forward, 2014 will be remembered as the year a critical mass of moviegoers realized that the price on their ticket stub is so much more than a simple number.

For more information on the status of women and film, please check out these incredible organizations and studies:

Sundance Institute - Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media - Gender Disparity On Screen and Behind the Camera In Family Films

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film - On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013

Women in Film

Women and Hollywood

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore

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