Over the years, Hollywood producer Ross Putman noticed a pattern he found funny but sad: The introductions of women in film scripts typically focused on appearance over, well, just about everything else.
So, he started collecting the paragraphs in a Word document, mostly to make his friends laugh — and on Tuesday, in a funny-but-sad Twitter feed, he decided to share them with the world.
Putman, who quickly amassed 22,000 followers, dubbed each heroine “Jane.”
“It’s funny because you can easily point to the ridiculous ones that are just outrageously sexual," Putman said, "but I think it’s more interesting to me to see how many of these have subtle misogyny in them."
He noted a description of a woman in her 30s as “attractive, intelligent.”
“Beyond the fact that that’s just poor writing, because that doesn’t give me any idea of who the character is, she’s attractive first and she’s intelligent second.”
The comedy works because it resembles reality. Consider how viewers met young Rose in Titanic:
We already know Hollywood values beauty in leading ladies and a vast range of other human traits in leading men. A University of Southern California analysis of 30,835 characters in movies from the top-grossing films of 2007 to 2014, for example, found that one-third of women prominently featured on screen wore skimpy or “sexy” clothing, compared to only 8 percent of the men.
Twenty-six percent flashed skin, while 9 percent of men did the same.
Less than a quarter of protagonist roles in last year’s 110 biggest box office hits, meanwhile, went to women, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Women also held roughly one-third of the major roles that involved speaking — and men dominated the remaining 67 percent, leaving one sex with much more room for character development.
The numbers were much worse for actresses of color, the report found. The share of black women on screen barely budged, from 11 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2015. Latina actresses stayed at 4 percent. Asian characters dropped from 4 percent to 3 percent.
Earlier this month, Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, who now runs her own production company, expressed to Entertainment Weekly her frustration over how women are depicted in popular culture.
They’re girlfriends. They’re moms. They’re preschool teachers — all beautiful, noble things. But the female experience, she said, is far more diverse than what typically appears on the silver screen.
"About four years ago I got sent an awful terrible script," she said. "And this male star was starring in it, and there was a girlfriend part. And I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me. No, I'm not interested.' "
Witherspoon, who didn’t name the movie, said producers told her multiple award-winning actresses were vying for the role.
"I thought, 'Oh, that's where we're at? You're fighting to be the girlfriend in a dumb comedy? For what?'”
Putman, surprised by the swift response to his new Twitter handle, said script writers should understand that women are complicated, three-dimensional creatures — especially if they're aiming to create a box office smash. Half of the viewers who bought movie tickets last year were women, industry data shows.
One way studios can improve a film's quality, he said: Hire more women writers. Only 13 percent of 2015's biggest films had a female scribe attached.
“We need more women writing scripts and directing movies," Putman said. "Because any women reading these scripts would be appalled."