The Hollywood Gender Gap Exists, but A.I. Can't Do Anything

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Even casual movie watchers could tell you that Hollywood’s onscreen presence is overwhelmingly made up of white dudes, but when it comes to advocating to change that status quo, hard evidence of that inequality is crucial. A new software called the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient promises to provide those numbers. All we need to do is figure out how to use it.

The software, also known as the GD-IQ, uses video and audio recognition technology and algorithms to break down a film in terms of gender and speaking time, and it does so faster than any human can. The GD-IQ can analyze a 90-minute film in 15 minutes, spitting out an accurate analysis of the amount of time female characters spend on screen compared to male ones. Developed at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, the tool promises to give gender equality advocates — much like Geena Davis herself — the data they need to make a compelling case to Hollywood’s controlling elite.

Data collected using the GD-IQ show that in action films with a female lead, like those in the 'Hunger Games' series, men generally still get triple the screen time. 

An analysis of the 100 top-grossing films of 2015 using the software was carried out by Quartz and confirmed, numerically, the trends we’ve all casually observed. Male characters had nearly double the amount of lines as female characters, and when a man had a leading role, he spoke three times more often as his female counterparts. Unsurprisingly, in movies that had a female lead, men still spoke as often as females, and in action films in particular, men appeared onscreen and spoke three times as much as women.

Using the software allows us to collect this sort of data with “a precision that is not possible with the human eye or ear,” the GD-IQ website reports. The question, now, is how can we use that data to make a compelling case for gender equality? For one thing, the software will allow advocates to assert that their information is totally unbiased, and it’ll make it easier to increase the sample size — that is, the number of films analyzed — of studies examining the gender gap.

But, as the Quartz analysis suggests, it’ll take more than proof of the gender gap to incur any sort of change. After all, the GD-IQ data simply confirms what we’ve known all along. What’s more surprising is what the box office numbers show: That films with a female lead grossed 16 percent more than films led by men in 2015. If Hollywood’s execs can’t see the value in those numbers, we don’t know what will.

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