January 31, 2013

Oscar nominations by gender - Writing

As you know, I love lists of people assembled by other people for other purposes than my own. Lately I've been tabulating lists of Oscar nominees over the decades, which provide unanticipated insights into popularity, social approval, and accomplishment. 

For example, we can use Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay to track the progress of women. 

Over the last 10 years (2003 through the current 2012 nominees) women have earned 14% of the Best Adapted Screenplay nominations. This is up from 11% in the 1930s. 

In the Best Original Screenplay, women have earned 15% of the nominations over the last 10 years. In the 1930s, women earned 15% of this category's nominations, too. 

My vague impression is that women screenwriters were particularly influential back in the silent movie era before the end of the 1920s. For example, Frances Marion wrote scores of movies from 1912 onward, winning Oscars in 1930 and 1932. 

The coming of the talkies from 1927 onward, with their need for expertly-crafted dialogue, led to a large importation of New York playwrights. Herman J. Mankiewicz famously telegraphed Ben Hecht: "Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

The New York men brought with them the more patriarchal tradition of the stage, where the playwright is king. In contrast, film is, by nature, a more collaborative medium, encouraging less domineering women to play an important role.

In contrast, Oscar nominations for the Production Directions/Art Direction/Set Decoration category went 100% to men in the 1930s. 

I'm not sure why that is, so I went to learn more about the leading set decorator, Cedric Gibbons of MGM, who received 39 Oscar nominations during his career. Wikipedia says about Cedric Gibbons:
He retired in 1956 with about 1,500 films credited to him: however, his contract with MGM dictated that he receive credit as art director for every MGM film released in the United States, even though other designers may have done the bulk of the work. Even so, his actual hands-on art direction may have been on about 150 films. 
In 1930, Gibbons married actress Dolores del Río and co-designed their house in Santa Monica, an intricate Art Deco residence influenced by Rudolf Schindler. They divorced in 1941, the year he married actress Hazel Brooks with whom he remained until his death at the age of 67. ...
Gibbons' nephew is Billy F. Gibbons, guitarist/vocalist for the rock band ZZ Top.

Well, that's interesting. Makes sense, too: ZZ Top has a better sense of art direction than almost any other American band. In fact, Billy F. Gibbons is so expert at the business of show biz that I can't find any copies of their famous 1983 music video Sharp Dressed Man online to illustrate my point.

The Wikipedia entry on the hirsute bluesman is a little more exact about the relationship between the two Gibbons:
Gibbons was born to Frederick Royal (Freddie) and Lorraine Gibbons in the Tanglewood suburb of Houston, Texas, United States. His father was an entertainer, orchestra conductor, and concert pianist who worked alongside second cousin, art director Cedric Gibbons, for Samuel Goldwyn at MGM Studios ... . While attending Warner Brothers' art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons engaged with his first bands including The Saints, Billy G & the Blueflames, and The Coachmen.

I'm reminded of singer Bonnie Raitt, who was famous in the 1970s and 1980s for her authentic blues style. I'd always sort of assumed she'd grown up the child of sharecroppers in East Texas. Bonnie, it turns out, is the daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt, the star of the first production of Carousel on Broadway in 1945. He starred opposite Doris Day in the 1957 movie musical The Pajama Game.

53 comments:

Matthew Walker said...

It's funny that Wikipedia has been unable to get their percentage of female contributors above 13%. Of course, it's not a precise comparison, because winning Oscars implies 13%-15% of female output is as good as the best male output, while the female wikipedians are noted for writing shorter, less thorough aticles than the men. Though that doesn't necessarily mean their articles are inferior.

DCThrowback said...

In the book "I Want My MTV", ZZTop (specifically Gibbons) were labeled video pioneers for their album "Eliminator", which pioneered the use of classic cars and attractive women (Legs!) to stoke the fantasies of adolescent males in the early 80s. An entire chapter was devoted to how this band of 40 year old guitar players with long beards and a Nashville pedigree used the new medium to sell 10M albums.

chucho said...

I haven't checked in a while, but I've never been able to find any pre-beard video clips of ZZ Top on youtube. But they surely were on TV shows, etc since they were semi-popular in the 70s. (BTW their 70s LPs are all fantastic and underrated, but avoid the CDs which have new drum tracks)

slumber_j said...

And she went to Radcliffe, which explained her otherwise inexplicably wild popularity with a certain sort of Harvard chick back in the day.

Anonymous said...

The problem with comparing the percentage of female Oscar nominees of the 1930s to that of today is that movie studios in the 1930s were factories. They employed screenwriters, art directors, etc. as salaried workers. That's how the big studios were able to crank out a new feature at the rate of something like one per week.

Obviously, there's more of a open market today for the services of writers, composers, set designers -- not to mention actors and directors.

George said...

Steve, just watched the video at
www.contactmusic.com/video/zz-top-sharp-dressed-man

Anonymous said...

Bonnie Raitt is the SON of John Raitt?

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/01/mel-gibson-father-jodie-fosters-children/61166/?oref=obinsite

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/01/jd-salinger-documentary/61553/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2013/01/zimbabwe-down-its-last-217/61562/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/01/gay-dog-facebook/61633/

Gennifer Zhang-Li said...

http://www.contactmusic.com/video/zz-top-sharp-dressed-man

Anonymous said...

The percentage of female Oscar winners for scriptwriting sounded similar to the number of women who contribute to Wikipedia so I checked an old post of yours. It turns out the percentage is uncannily similar: Last year, the New York Times pointed out that women make up just 13 per cent of those who contribute to Wikipedia
http://isteve.blogspot.ca/2012/04/need-for-female-hitler-other-great.html

Hubbard said...

Is this the video you were thinking of? http://www.contactmusic.com/video/zz-top-sharp-dressed-man

Anonymous said...

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/jan/21/dumb-america/

yellow macac corrections service said...

I wonder that you wouldn't assume a blues musician was from Tennessee or Louisiana rather than Texas. You're also forgetting the middle class white America well-represented in the California of the past. Nickel Creek is a group out of Vista that you might guess had come out of the southwest instead of the west coast. The early rock music wasn't all that distinguishable from blues and country anyway.

Texas has a great tradition of partying and rodeoing but it's not known for cranking out copious amounts of famous musicians. Just one more way we are confused with the deep south...

I also don't think you've done enough research on screenwriters. Maybe the women aren't winning the top awards but plenty of movies have women screenwriters who are quite skilled with dialogue. Wonder what the overall numbers are.





AWC said...

Here's a new blog: Occam's Razor

http://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/

It has multiple bloggers and will include topics: HBD, politics, history and economics, immigration, etc.

We are still working on blogroll. If we do not have you added, please add us, leave comment or email, and we'll add you.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Actually it seems that 'lowborn' whites and blacks have abandoned musical instruments altogether.

As far as the children of the comparatively well to do taking up the musical styles of African Americans, Scott Joplin passed the classical ragtime baton to White middle class Joesph Lamb. Blacks having moved on to other things.

Anonymous said...

All this show business stuff is fascinating, but you might be interested to know that there's an article in the Wash Post saying that Latino immigrants are "assimilating" as quickly as previous waves of immigrants (whatever that means). Any thoughts on that, Steve?

ray said...

I'd always sort of assumed she'd grown up the child of sharecroppers in East Texas. Bonnie, it turns out, is the son of Broadway musical star John Raitt


yes, she is a child of wealth and privilege . . . running around singing the Blues

lol

for big money

LOL!

like her close pal clyde browne, bonnie "feels the underclass" and she and her lib friends tour the world promoting feminism and equality . . . fighting against the Oppressor (the Evil White Male) of the Pore Folk, of the Indigenous, and of the Good

i saw her with clyde in '72 or '73, she plays nice guitar but so does the devil

diana said...

Interesting. It motivated me to look up who wrote the most successful movie ever, GONE WITH THE WIND. If you look it up on Box Office Mojo, adjusted for inflation GWTW is more successful than even Titanic.

Screenplay was by a man, Sidney Howard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Howard

Fascinating guy - native Californian, graduated UCal Berkeley.

Of course, GWTW was adapted from a book by a woman.

Anonymous said...

Everyone'e connected. The more connected people are are the more they pretend they are outsiders.

Dana Thompson said...

If Cedric and Frederick were second cousins, then Billy is second cousin once removed to Cedric (not nephew).

Anonymous said...

http://www.contactmusic.com/video/zz-top-sharp-dressed-man

It wasn't that hard to find the ZZ Top video.

Anonymous said...

ZZ Top must have been very clever business-wise.

They managed to get a HUGE contract out of BMG in the early 90's when they were waaaaaaay past their popular prime. Cant think of anything they produced after that other than perhaps fulfilling contract obligations.

If you were ZZ Top, who cares? You scored an enormous payday!

riches said...

Ms. Raitte's authentic blues style?

It’s safe to assume that our blog proprietor (wisely) spent more of his time in Chicago at the CSO and Lyric Opera than at Theresa's or the Checkerboard Lounge.

dirk said...

"Texas has a great tradition of partying and rodeoing but it's not known for cranking out copious amounts of famous musicians. Just one more way we are confused with the deep south..."

Um, Houston blues guitar players would include: Lightning Hopkins, Albert Collins, Johnny Guitar Watson, Johnny Copeland, Gatemouth Brown, Joe Guitar Hughes, the inventor of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, and Jellyroll Morton would have gotten his start in the 4th Ward there if the sheriff hadn't chased him out for pimpin and forced him to relocate in New Orleans. And, of course, T-Bone Walker was from San Antonio, which was a blues mecca back in the day and where Robert Johnson recorded the first of his famous recordings.

Anonymous said...

One of the taboos of modern discourse is adding 'race' and 'science'.
'Racial science' is a bad bad term as it connotes that races are not all the same. Against 'racial science', there is supposedly the truth about race where all the races are more or less the same. But isn't the notion of equality among races also a form of 'racial science'?

Whether one believes races are different or the same, we must assume that if one is modern person, he came to his conclusions scientifically. There must be scientific or empirical evidence for believing that races are different, and there must be empirical evidence for believing that races are the same.
Without such evidence, both the view that the races are different and the view that races are the same are not scientific but superstitious or faith-based.

Since HBD people claim to have evidence of racial differences, they are into 'racial science'. But since liberals, who claim to be rational and scientific, say they have evidence that all the races are alike, they too must have hard data to back up the claim of racial equality. So, how are they are any less into 'racial science' than HBD people?
Both sides are into 'racial science', except that one group has come to conclude, on the basis of evidence, that racial differences are real while the other group has come to conclude, on the basis of their own set of evidence, that the races are the same.



Anonymous said...

It's been said by some that FDR was a traitor to his class, and in a way, this was true as he taxed the hell out of it.

But in another way, maybe he was the ultimate defender of his class as the soon-to-become permanent caste. When federal government was small, and the business of America was business, the rich and powerful were determined by their success in money. But the nature of capitalism is such that winners rise fast but also fall fast, and there's no guarantee of business dynasties lasting forever. Innovation creates new giants and slays old ones almost overnight. There was no guarantee that the rich of the late 19th century would be the rich of the early 20th century who would be rich of the mid 20th century.
So, it's almost impossible to arrive at permanent dynastic power under capitalism. There's no guarantee that the children of George Lucas are gonna be as talented as their father. No guarantee that the children of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs will be titans.

In the first half of the 20th century, it would have dawned on the established wasp class that things were changing ever so fast. Old money was not good enough in the new order. The children of old rich often didn't have the brains or savvy of their parents.

So, how do you perpetuate the power of old money into the future? Since US has no landed aristocracy, one must expand the power of government and create a vast mandarin class committed to big ideas and political power.
Also, even as big government taxes the rich, it also offers all sorts of contracts to the rich and connected: Halliburton, Wall Street, corporate welfare, military industrial complex, and etc. Rich folks pay a lot to government but also reap a lot from the government. Why were both Wall Street and Washington pushing for ownership society? Why are they both pushing for green energy? Lots of money to be made by crony capitalists and lots of power to be had by the mandarin bureaucratic class.

If federal government had remained small, the not-so-talented or not-so-business-savvy children of the old rich would have just fell by the wayside. But with big government both at local, state, and federal level, the children of the old rich can perpetuate dynastic power by going into politics and government.

Indeed, what would have happened to the Kennedies if the kids hadn't gone into politics? What would have happened to the Bushies if the kids didn't make it in government?
The kids and grandkids didn't have the brains and visions of their forebears.

Thus, FDR was, in a way, the biggest benefactor to the dynasticism of old money and old rich. Even if old money lost the knack for making money, they could maintain family prestige by grooming their kids to serve in the upper reaches of a vastly expanded government caste. Bigger the government, the more positions for the aristobureaucrats.

And old money could get sweet deals by working with big government in the form of crony capitalism. If you're old money and if you got kids in high places in government, maybe they could get some sweet deals for your enterprise. Thus, government serves to protect old money from the vagaries of competition from new enterprise.

As new money is increasingly liberal and Jewish, it could be that the last vestiges of conservative power will be government power. American conservatives have lost in media empire, information empire, high tech empire, Hollywood empire, and etc. Even a conservative food joint like Chick Fil A is now afraid to support conservative causes and bending over to the gay lobby. If it doesn't, liberal media will attack it and Wall Street might not loan it more money, and people might not buy stocks.

Wall Street sometimes leans toward GOP only over lower taxes and free trade but in terms of social values, it's more even more liberal than the Democratic party. It's a very Jewish-and-gayish world.

Anonymous said...

Even though conservatives say they're for small government and free enterprise, the fact is the top talents of free enterprise are increasingly liberal, Jewish, globalist, gay, Asian-Indian, and etc. Even since the Democrats embraced 'free trade' and relatively lower taxes, most of the superrich have left the GOP.
So, what else is there left for conservative power but government? But American conservatism is ideologically anti-government, so liberals fill the vacuum.

No matter how one looks at it, the only viable way for American conservatism to survive is to dissolve the GOP, join the Democrats en masse, and undermine it from within. It's like Jewish radicals finally gave up revolution, joined the mainstream parties, and undermined white power from within.

Anonymous said...

I take it this was meant for publication over at Taki's? It lacks cohesion, has no obvious point, and ends abruptly as if somebody lost the last page, just like pretty everything of yours over there (as the commenters inevitably point out).

Karen said...

For the guy who doesn't think Texas produced musicians, I offer Buddy Holly and Van Clyburn.

Karen said...

For the guy who thought Texas doesn't produce musicians, I offer Ledbelly, Buddy Holly, Van Clyburn, and Scott Joplin.

Steve Sailer said...

Listen to the soundtrack of director John Lee Hancock's baseball movie The Rookie, in which Dennis Quaid is a Texas teacher who makes it to the MLB at age 36. It's a greatest hits collection of Texas music.

Ray Sawhill said...

Women were pretty prominent and numerous in the moviebiz prior to the establishment of the studio system, and were sometimes real movers and shakers, at least if the movie-history books I've read are to be believed. Mary Pickford, for example, was a dynamo -- she didn't just perform, she produced, and she was one of the founding partners of United Artists.

Ray Sawhill said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Texas_blues_musicians

Ray Sawhill said...

Not to mention a lot of great alt-country figures: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and many others. And Buddy Holly, darn it.

Ray Sawhill said...

Frances Marion was a gigantically successful screenwriter, Lois Weber an important early director, and Alice Guy-Blaché a genuine pioneer.

FWIW, my impression is that it was all those patriarchal old-world Euros who ran the moviebiz from 1930ish who put the ladies in their place.

Anonymous said...

But since liberals, who claim to be rational and scientific

I think that claim rests almost entirely on liberal views about evolution vs creationism and conservative Christians and thats about it.

They certainly dont seem to think evolution applies to humans.

yellow macac corrections said...

"Listen to the soundtrack of director John Lee Hancock's baseball movie The Rookie, in which Dennis Quaid is a Texas teacher who makes it to the MLB at age 36. It's a greatest hits collection of Texas music.

To be fair, I did say "copious amounts". No one mentioned the most famous two Texas musicians; Willie Nelson and Janice Joplin. As for Karen and Dirk, those are a few names from the past but I bet still not very many compared to the true southern states.

misty said...

Slightly related on the topic of gender stereotypes: I've read some of the famous Noah Millman over at Am Con. Is he a blond?

yellow macac corrections said...

Long time no see, Sawhill. Thought you'd kicked the bucket or something.

John Dryden said...

Mostly off topic:
Spencer Dryden, drummer for the Jefferson Airplane, was Charlie Chaplin's nephew. Makes you wonder.

Mr. Anon said...

I've heard that nowadays ZZTop play concert dates mainly for the opportunity to score a paid golf vacation. Apparently they're big golfers.

DaveinHackensack said...

Nickel Creek is a group out of Vista that you might guess had come out of the southwest instead of the west coast.

Gary Allan is also from California.

Anonymous said...

RE: Bonnie Raitt. The current popular white blues lady is Susan Tedeschi, wife of blues guitarist Derek Trucks, himself the son of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. Tedeschi is the daughter of the founder and CEO of a small supermarket chain and grew up in the tony Boston suburb of Norwell on Boston's South Shore.

Anonymous said...

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2012/12/28/mort-zuckerman-brace-for-an-avalanche-of-unfunded-debt

pat said...

I was at first shocked that you had to explain to your readership who the great John Raitt was. Do they nothing of music history?

Then I realized I have no real idea who this group called ZZTop might be.

I've never heard Bonnie Raitt either. I'd always assumed she was to her father as Jack Jones was to his father Alan Jones - another example of regression to the mean.

Albertosaurus

pat said...

The statistics of Hollywood writing by gender are interesting from a HBD point of view.

If writing achievement were only the result of writing ability you might expect at least half of the celebrated writers in Hollywood to be female.

Women often kvetch about how this or that unfair circumstance has kept them from properly loving algebra. To hear them tell it, when their parents gave them their first doll, they somehow doomed them to be forever bad at math.

But feminists don't often mention that women usually do a bit better than men on the verbal half of aptitude tests. There is a rough kind of symmetry: men are good with numbers and women are good with words.

The female verbal test score advantage corresponds closely with patterns of real world gender achievement. There have been lots of famous female novelists for at least the last two centuries. But there have been no female Fields Medalists.

Females it seems are lousy at math but are just swell at crafting words. So why have only 15% of acknowledged and admired screen writers been female, not 50%?

Two explanations occur to me. The first is the greater variability of men and the second is their greater aggressiveness.

If Hollywood writing success is assumed to require some native writing ability that is two or more sigmas above the mean, then there is nothing much to explain. Almost every characteristic, positive or negative, is seen more frequently in men when we only look at the distribution tails.

Or it could be the greater aggressiveness of men. I'm reminded of Charles Goren's observation that almost all bridge players are women but almost all the champions are male. The only exception he noted was Helen Sobel Smith who was famous for "playing like a man". Bridge, a game designed to appeal to women because of its emphasis on sex, is actually very sensitive to differences in the player's aggressiveness and assertiveness. This strongly favors men.

Albertosaurus

JohnB said...

Two top Texas musicians spring immediately to mind as I listened to them in my car not an hour ago: Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Johnson ("the Tone Ranger" from Austin).

Two of the best guitarists to ever handle the electric axe.

Ray Sawhill said...

yellow macac corrections -- Still hanging on, tks. Still visiting here all the time too.

Albertosaurus -- Re the male/female screenwriter ratio ... And entirely FWIW (but on the other hand I was a filmbuff for decades and did a lot of showbiz and movie reporting too) ... I suspect that the main thing driving the diff is aggression and stick-to-it-iveness, not talent. Nobody I ever talked to in the movie biz claimed that women writers don't have the writerly goods, and many people told me that women writers tend to be better than men. Women are generally more able to get inside characters, they can really *live* those situations and deliver the big emotions, they're shrewder about psychology, etc. And they're less prone than guys are to solve dramatic problems by cutting to rock songs, montages, fight scenes and sex. (Guys tend to be better at action and yuks, but women tend to be better at nearly everything else.) But the movie biz is a seriously tough field, and many women (including those who win prizes at schools and festivals for their screenplays) quit after a few years in it. Colleagues don't welcome their lovely creations with the hoped-for gratitude and praise -- instead it's constant war. And then the one-in-ten of your precious creations that does make it to the screen gets ripped into something you hate. So the women often bail, while male writers with less talent keep on running into that wall, over and over and over.

I spoke to a few movie women who claim that sexism is behind some of the difficulties women have making it as pro screenwriters and pro directors, and god knows people in the biz can be pigs. But most of the people I spoke to over the years told me that many women just can't see a reason to put up with the stress and the agonies of being a creative person in the biz. The women who do persist and succeed in the biz are often agents and executives, and they often wind up in offices, where they seem to be happier.

Maxwell said...

"Since HBD people claim to have evidence of racial differences, they are into 'racial science'. But since liberals, who claim to be rational and scientific, say they have evidence that all the races are alike, they too must have hard data to back up the claim of racial equality. So, how are they are any less into 'racial science' than HBD people?
Both sides are into 'racial science', except that one group has come to conclude, on the basis of evidence, that racial differences are real while the other group has come to conclude, on the basis of their own set of evidence, that the races are the same. "

The problem is that you're assuming that liberals have actual evidence to support their view. CNN, and MSNBC saying its so are not actually 'evidence'.

Zane said...

"There have been lots of famous female novelists for at least the last two centuries"

-Alot of them are males using female pennames. Just like, I suspect, some of the 'female' posters here.

Eric Rasmusen said...

I heard somewhere (here?) that a lot of the Korean drama TV series that are such hits now in Asia (and are addicting for Americans too) have female screenwriters. Something maybe to look into.

lulu said...

"Colleagues don't welcome their lovely creations with the hoped-for gratitude and praise -- instead it's constant war. And then the one-in-ten of your precious creations that does make it to the screen gets ripped into something you hate. So the women often bail, while male writers with less talent keep on running into that wall, over and over and over."

That's what I've always suspected. As [someone] once said, most success is just showing up. Again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. Even when it means running into brick walls over and over.
Women are more easily discouraged by that sort of thing, at least in the public domain. Men do seem more likely to consider brick walls as part of the game.

Anonymous said...

Alot of them are males using female pennames. Just like, I suspect, some of the 'female' posters here.

At least one of them (Evelyn Waugh) had a given name considered masculine in its time, but now feminine.