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The ReFrame Stamp and What It Means for the Future of Hollywood

A Deadline article about the ReFrame Stamp recipients by Dino-Ray Ramos reports on the 100 most popular scripted films of 2020 (IMDb). “ReFrame is a coalition of industry professionals and partner companies founded by Women In Film and Sundance Institute. The organization’s mission is to increase the number of women of all backgrounds working in film, TV, and media.” The stamp is awarded to films that have achieved gender-balanced hiring. The ReFrame stamp was given to 29 of the 100 films, a 12% increase from the previous year. Films including The Old Guard, Birds of Prey, and Wonder Woman 1984 have all been praised for their inclusivity and female directors. But what does this distinction of gender-balanced films mean for Hollywood as a whole?

As more social issues have touched Hollywood over the past couple of years, there has been a push for more inclusive, respectful, and accurate portrayals and sets within the industry. While the ReFrame stamp works to publicize and emphasize films that do just that, it also creates a demand for such films. Hollywood overall has been put through a critical lens since the rise of social media and the lack of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and minorities overall on sets and in movies has become abundantly clear. Distinctions like the ReFrame Stamp that have been highly announced not only blatantly display films that do not make an attempt at more inclusive sets, but also set a precedent for future films. Awards like that create a demand for films that are made by women and other minorities that accurately depict their experiences.

With creating a demand, there becomes a need, and Hollywood is more likely to become overall more conscious of who they cast and who is behind the camera. Women within the industry, whether on camera or working the camera, have been misjudged and silenced, and this stamp is a great tool to encourage women to strive for more in their careers and for Hollywood to correct its gender disparity in order to not only represent a realistic version of its community, but to create stories that represent all types of people within society. When Hollywood as a community is held accountable for its disparities, they are forced to make improvements or risk their audiences, actors, and crews’ support. 

Ramos writes that, “topping the 2020 list in terms of the most popular film to meet ReFrame Stamp criteria is Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Old Guard, the first comic-based action pic to be helmed by a Black woman director,” however this raises the question: shouldn’t there be more accolades and distinctions for films that are also inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and minorities, not just women? The number of black women directors in Hollywood is far below that of white women directors. The number of black women directors, also part of the LGBTQ+ community, are even lower. While the ReFrame Stamp does highlight films that have successfully achieved gender-balanced hiring, what is identifying films that have a diverse crew in terms of race or LGBTQ+ inclusion? Those working behind the scenes influence how films are made and when a more diverse group of people are working on a project, there is a much higher chance that women in general, people of color, the transgender community, etc. will be portrayed more accurately on screen and be given more truthful/diverse stories that do not adhere to stereotypes. This stamp is such an influential tool, that could be expanded to many more groups in Hollywood in order to create a more realistic Hollywood, not a white-washed , male dominated version. 

Ramos goes on to explain that, “outside of the top 100, 40 films released in 2020 also received the Stamp, including The High Note, I Carry You With Me, I’m Your Woman, Shirley and Wander Darkly.” He then specifically identifies the improvement from the 2019 list. Being that 29 films were stamped out of the 100 (increase over 26 in 2019), 17 films were directed by women (increase over 12), 6 films were directed by women of color (increase over 4), 21 films were written by 29 women (increase over 19), 4 films were written by women of color (increase over 3), and 7 films has women cinematographers, (increase over 2). Although this data does shows a progression and increase in women behind the scenes, it also points out that a gender-balanced Hollywood is going to take a large amount of time to achieve and the progress is not happening fast enough. When women are in the director and writing chair, the stories they produce are very different than those that have been made in the past 100 years, almost solely by men.

We as a society have been so heavily influenced by men through the media because of the saturation of the “male gaze” within everything we consume. The male gaze being the perception of women, (physically, emotionally, and mentally,) from a masculine, heterosexual perspective, which is not accurate to real life and the actual society we live in. Women and men have been influenced by film and all types of art and media, to adapt and accept a version of women that is toxic to how women see themselves and how men treat women. With more women creating films and working behind the scenes, the representation of their community as a whole will be more accurately presented and create a new culture surrounding the “female gaze” and an overall understanding of authentic stories that show women in places of power, in complex relationships, and in a realistic light, rather than as the sexual objects of the “male gaze.” Many films that have received the ReFrame Stamp have in fact subverted the “male gaze” within their stories, such as Birds of Prey and Promising Young Woman. While we are on the road to a completely gender-balanced version of the community Hollywood has built, it is going to take extensive change to replace the years of harmful male ideals and stereotypes that plague our society.  

Ross’s article seeks to look at the positive side of the film industry and highlight the importance and change that has come from the ReFrame Stamp. Even as this accolade does assist in the building of a more progressive industry, there is still much that could and needs to be done in order to create an ideal Hollywood, where equal and accurate representation of all neglected communities takes precedent. The ReFrame Stamp not only works to encourage women in film, but encourages audiences to fight for films that positively affect society and all the types of people that make up the world we live in.