Boys grow up to be soldiers and criminals. Girls grow up to be wives and entertainers. At least, that’s the impression given by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, based on the Best Actor and Best Actress statuettes the organization has been doling out since 1929. According to Fusion’s Molly Fitzpatrick, the Oscars have been complicit in reinforcing gender stereotypes over the course of nearly nine decades by granting so many awards to women whose characters are defined as wives or widows, with no career outside the home. A statistical breakdown of Best Actress winners shows that 16 percent have been wives and 11 percent have been widows. In between the wives and widows are the entertainers, who account for 14 percent of winners. Meanwhile, the most common job for Best Actor winners is criminal, a category that encompasses both gangsters (Marlon Brando in The Godfather) and serial killers (Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs.)
To further drive home her point about gender inequality at the Oscars, Fitzpatrick has included bar graphs that break down award-winning performances by occupation. Here is the list for the Best Actress winners.
Notice how many of these women are wives and how few are scientists, athletes, or law enforcement officials (with Frances McDormand in 1996’s Fargo a rare exception). Generally, the Oscar-winning women who are allowed to have onscreen careers find themselves limited to blue-collar jobs, such as waiting tables or cleaning houses, give r take a few teachers. And at least six of these women have played prostitutes. In contrast, look at the roles that have won Best Actor.
No prostitutes whatsoever. Plenty of military men, though.
[Note: Fusion, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]