Oscar’s Gender Split: It’s not politically correct to say this, but I’ve always suspected there’s a gender divide at the Oscars that conspires against Best Picture wins for movies appealing primarily to men.
To state the obvious, these are movies loaded with violence, blood and testosterone that tend to attract more males than females. Cop stories, westerns, war movies, thrillers and the like. I don’t know the exact gender breakdown of the 5,830 voting members of the Academy. I’ve heard that males are in the majority, but no one has said by how much. I’ve also heard that some male voters can’t be bothered filling out their ballots and turn them over to their wives or girlfriends.
|Very few "guy movies" take the Best Picture Oscar. So far this decade there's just one: Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, in 2000.|
Perhaps these two factoids cancel each other out. But look back over the history of the Oscars, and one plain fact emerges: there are very few Best Picture winners that could be called “guy movies.” In this decade, there has been only one: Gladiator in 2000. The film was an anomaly in many ways, not least of which was its theatrical release outside of awards season. But it had a high blood-and-guts quotient, which made it more popular with men than women. The fact that it also had a very strong romantic subplot – Russell Crowe’s warrior is avenging the murder of his wife and child – probably explains why it was able to attract enough female votes to take Best Picture.
I think the gender divide is the reason why Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is facing so much perceived competition from Little Miss Sunshine and Babel. The Departed is in many respects a classic Oscar film – a star-filled drama made by a great filmmaker who deserves his gold – yet it's a “chap flick” through and through. The only significant female presence is Vera Farmiga, who manages to avoid being swept away by the testosterone tide. And the film has a very high body count.
I have no statistical proof that more men than women are going to see The Departed. I do have water-cooler anecdotes. Speaking to women about their Best Picture preferences, I detect more female love for Little Miss Sunshine, Babel and The Queen than I do for The Departed or Letters From Iwo Jima.
Men, on the other hand, tend to prefer The Departed, Babel and Letters From Iwo Jima. The only film of the five that seems to fully span the gender divide is Babel, which may be a clue for next Sunday night’s Academy Awards.
I am now about to attack my own thesis. The most passionate defender of The Departed I know is a woman: Sasha Stone of Oscarwatch.com. She recently posted her very insightful interview with the Oscar-nominated William Monahan, screenwriter of The Departed. (So take these gender musings with a grain of salt and don’t squeal on me to my mom.)
But Stone admits she’s puzzled by how The Departed seems to be more popular online than it is in the real world. Several polls on the Net, Oscarwatch included, give The Departed the edge for Best Picture. Yet in the real world, it’s considered to be in a tight three-way race with Babel and Little Miss Sunshine. “Is The Departed a Net geek movie?” Stone wrote in a comment to one of my earlier blog posts. “I don’t think I have ever seen such a huge disconnect between the most predicted film to win (Babel) and the polls so overwhelmingly supporting one film (The Departed).”
Do I dare suggest that most Net geeks are male?