The decline of interest in female film stars

by on June 6, 2013 at 7:54 am in Film, Music, Television | Permalink

Glamour featured film stars on half of its covers in 2012. But the May 2012 issue featuring Lauren Conrad, the former star of the reality show “The Hills,” was the year’s best-selling issue, at 500,072 copies. The magazine now expects to make film stars the minority presence in 2013.

At Cosmopolitan, the best-selling cover this year featured Kim Kardashian in April, with 1.2 million copies sold, followed by the singer Miley Cyrus in March with 1.1 million copies. In 2012, three out of five of Cosmopolitan’s top covers featured the celebrities Demi Lovato with 1.379 million copies sold, Khloé Kardashian at 1.354 million copies and Selena Gomez at 1.334 million copies.

Vogue’s best-selling cover in the first four months of 2013 featured Beyoncé with 340,000 copies sold. In 2012, Lady Gaga commanded the cover of Vogue’s September issue and sold nearly double the number of copies of the January 2012 issue, featuring Meryl Streep.

It’s not just younger women’s magazines that are moving away from film stars. When Redbook landed an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow for its January issue, the magazine featured her with her trainer Tracy Anderson and not in what the magazine’s editor in chief, Jill Herzig, called the “traditional A-lister in a ball gown kind of way.”

It is music and TV which are in the ascendancy.  I blame the globalization of the movie market in part, which skews Hollywood movies more toward Asian male audiences, in turn limiting their appeal to American females.  In general international audiences lower the return to good dialog and raise the return on action and explosions, which on average hurts prominent female roles.  Note that men’s magazines are now having more film stars on their covers.  And there is this:

A recently published study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism showed that the percentage of female characters with a speaking part in the nation’s top movies each year reached its lowest point in the past five years in 2012, at 28 percent. Ms. Coles said it had become so difficult to find female film stars to feature from this summer’s blockbusters that her magazine was publishing an article about the problem.

The full article is here.

Becky Hargrove June 6, 2013 at 8:09 am

Some of this may have to do with daily realities of life in the U.S., which are not as easy to make movies about right now. For instance, Baby Boomers have any number of challenges which they stoically deal with, but don’t talk about publicly or openly so much! (Recent decades did have some good Baby Boomer movies with more parts for women). Perhaps it’s not as easy for younger generations to talk about their daily lives (in film form) for different sets of reasons.

Andrew' June 6, 2013 at 8:14 am

Previews on DVD rentals for something about Kevin Kline losing his dog were inescapable.

Urso June 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

“Baby Boomers have any number of challenges which they stoically deal with, but don’t talk about publicly or openly so much”
They say that finely executed satire is indistinguishable from a genuinely held belief. Really curious as to which this is.

JWatts June 6, 2013 at 10:36 am

There is nothing subtle about the satire in the phrase, “Baby Boomers …don’t talk about publicly or openly so much”.

Becky Hargrove June 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

Genuine. For years I wrote songs, but who writes songs about growing old?

Thor June 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

Does “Talking about my Generation” (?) by the Who qualify?

“I hope I die before I get old” are amongst the lyrics. I also recall the Stones singing: “What a drag it is getting old.”

JWatts June 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I don’t think the perception that Baby boomers are particularly stoic is very wide spread. I would consider my parents to be noticeably less stoic than my grandparents.

prior_approval June 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

So ‘female film star’ has been been replaced with ‘female celebrity.’ Amazing. And celebrity is being created in new ways? So, where do we place Paris Hilton? In the category of the rich and famous, like Princess Caroline of Monaco? In the category of TV, with The Simple Life? Or in a new category, still being defined, involving the Internet and wide distribution of her various personal activities?

But here is a real question – does anyone still actually care about magazines? Because if there is any format that seems to be in decline, it is print media. This should have been self-evident to anyone writing on a web site which attracts a number of readers daily that approaches the number of ‘daily’ readers of those monthlies combined. And this is an economics site – ever wondered about Gawker and its media empire? They probably see larger fluctuations in page views in a few hours than the total circulation of all the magazines named above.

dan1111 June 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

Good point. Apparently a few million people are still buying fashion magazines. But the demographics of those people may be changing, as a certain part of the readership moves to the internet while the rest stays. Or, their readers get older as they only keep existing readers and don’t add new customers.

These trends may be more relevant to the changing cover popularity than any change in the movie business.

S June 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

If demographics say these magazine’s readers are getting older, the phenomenon of near-teenagers (Cyrus, Lovato and Gomez have all barely reached their 20′s, no?) being more popular than e.g. Meryl Streep becomes even more difficult to explain.

Andrew' June 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

One thing I’ve noticed about movies (I don’t know if it is a trend) is that there will be a movie with a male star and a female relative unknown e.g. Jack Reacher. It may be similar for movies with female stars but doesn’t seem as pronounced.

James B. June 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

In the 80s and early 90s most of the fashion magazine covers were Supermodels (Crawford, Seymour, Pestova, Porizkova and the like). Then the trend moved to actresses.

Tarrou June 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

How many years before computer animation is capable of replacing actors entirely, and will that end the phenomenon of “movie stars” as we know it? My guess is less than twenty years, and yes.

The Anti-Gnostic June 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

There will always be actors, but the “movie stars” are over.

Computer animated ‘actors’ are capable of being as compelling as human actors, when you’re a teenager.

j r June 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

I doubt it. You’re discounting the role of PR in what it means to be a celebrity. The kind of people who consume celebrity culture, and more importantly who buy all the crap that celebrities market, are connecting as much with the actual actress as with her on-screen performance.

JWatts June 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

Agreed, if the digital avatar can’t sale make up and hair spray as effectively as Jessica Biel or Angela Jolie then it’s not an improvement.

Bill June 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm

In Japan, this is happening already. Whole franchises are built around hologram vocaloid characters, like Hatsune Miku. They market things as actors do.

Rafael Guthmann June 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm

It will always be cheaper to film an actor than to make a photorealistic CGI actors, even with computing power becoming nearly free, there is always the manpower cost of the artists to make the CGI model.

JWatts June 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm

That may be true, but it could certainly cap the amount of money that an actor can demand too a much lower amount.

mw June 6, 2013 at 9:43 am

And yet I feel the past 5-10 years have certainly elevated as many if not more truly outstanding hollywood actresses compared to the 5-10 before that. And really how overlapping has the market for Meryl Streep (or Michelle Williams) ever been with the market for Marylin Monroe (or Kim Kardashian)?

Thor June 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Marilyn Monroe had considerable comic (comedic?) skills. Not just in “Some Like it Hot” either; she was gifted. Don’t lump her with the Kardashians.

8 June 6, 2013 at 9:44 am

Is this a story about Asian male movie demand or American female gossip demand?

Females have a tough time lasting it in Hollywood because their looks fade more quickly, so their audience shrinks quickly. Same as in the dating market. When I think of long lasting Hollywood female stars, I think of Streep and Foster, and much younger, Jolie and Paltrow. Now, think about these types of women who make it for the long-haul in Hollywood, and then think of what drives women’s magazine sales (gossip, drama). Do any guys care about Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, or Lindsey Lohan? Their “careers” or fame exists solely because they are gossip creating machines.

Steve Sailer June 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Stars usually start out, when young, appealing more to audience members of the opposite sex. To stay in the game as they pass, say, 25, they have to start appealing more to their own sex. Generations ago, older female movie stars (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, etc.) could be silver screen leading ladies well into their 40s due to the loyalty of their female fans.

Now, though, their contemporary equivalents usually switch to television detective series after a certain age. (None of this applies to Meryl Streep, because she’s just really good.)

Myron June 6, 2013 at 9:46 am

Isn’t this overthinking random statistical noise? Why shouldn’t statistics about how many copies of magazines with various types of celebrities on the cover fluctuate year to year?

Plus the whole concept of putting movie actors on the cover of mass-market print magazines to sell them in bulk to semi-literate middle class Americans is something that just screams transcience.

Eric S. June 6, 2013 at 9:52 am

The world is Jennifer Lawrence’s oyster.

dead serious June 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

There is a joke aching to be made about Jennifer Lawrence’s oyster, but I won’t make it.

Andrew' June 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

It’s not about her oyster.

Go Kings, Go! June 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Yes, but do you want to live in an oyster-world without Minnie Pearl?

The Anti-Gnostic June 6, 2013 at 9:58 am

I blame the globalization of the movie market in part, which skews Hollywood movies more toward Asian male audiences, in turn limiting their appeal to American females.

I blame the globalists, who use such sprawling, opaque terms like “Asian.” Do you mean Hindu, Han, Pakistanis, Armenians, Turks, Chechens? Or do you mean everybody from the Levant to Okinawa? I doubt that’s really the target market but then, I’m not a Hollywood producer.

Redbook is an old woman’s magazine, so they feature 40-year old Gwyneth Paltrow, laboring devoutly against Father Time. People magazine called ol’ Gwyneth the Most Beautiful Woman In The World, which tells you where their demographics are headed.

Teens and young adults are running from movies to video games, which don’t feel compelled to work in so many absurd and uncool memes, so actresses are losing traction and the void is filled with celebrity (Beyonce is not a ‘musician’).

j r June 6, 2013 at 10:11 am

Why is Beyonce not a musician? The human voice is capable of producing music. Are opera singers musicians?

The Anti-Gnostic June 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

Beyonce is a model and dancer who can carry a tune and can maybe even do some compositions. So can lots of people. Doesn’t make them “musicians” and certainly not opera singers.

Take away the toned dancer’s body, the outfit, erotic dance choreography and tell them to perform the Star Spangled Banner a capella. Then you get an idea of who’s a musician and who’s just a model and/or dancer who can carry a tune.

Axa June 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

The market seems to say she’s a musician. Stupid consumers, they know nothing.

Anon June 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

It turns out most very successful people are pretty talented at what they do. They may not be the best at it, but they are very far from average.

http://theweek.com/article/index/239574/watch-beyonce-sings-the-national-anthem-live-at-her-super-bowl-press-conference

The Anti-Gnostic June 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Axa – the market says she’s meeting consumer demand; nothing more.

Bill June 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Who then in your opinion is a musician? She’s much more than that: a dancer, entertainer, celebrity, but a musician is part of this mix too.

Roy June 6, 2013 at 10:52 am

I suspect this was said by someone who never took a vocal lesson

Mike H June 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

“I blame the globalization of the movie market in part, which skews Hollywood movies more toward Asian male audiences, in turn limiting their appeal to American females. ”

Oh my. This is so wrong that I don’t even know where to begin. Professor Tyler, could you please elaborate as to where you get the idea about the preferences of “Asian male audiences” not wanting to see American female stars in American movies? You know, this is the equivalent of saying that White American men would prefer to see White girls and not Asian ones performing in Asian idol groups such as AKB48.

“In general international audiences lower the return to good dialog and raise the return on action and explosions, which on average hurts prominent female roles.”

Ya that totally makes sense. Asian male audiences would prefer to see macho white actors smashing things and uttering gibberish on the screen, instead of having attractive female stars from another culture doing more intelligent things. You know, you really underestimate the taste and ambitions of so-called “Asian male audiences”.

Cliff June 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

The problem is translation, smart guy. You are clueless if you think American dramas do as well as action movies in Asia.

JWatts June 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Actually it’s not really a translation. That’s explicitly what Tyler says and it seems to match what’s widely reported. It seems as if the parent poster didn’t actually read what Tyler wrote with any intent to understand it, but immediately reacted on an emotional level.

“You know, this is the equivalent of saying that White American men would prefer to see White girls and not Asian ones performing in Asian idol groups such as AKB48.”

No, what Tyler wrote is more like saying that White American men would prefer to see Asian Men blowing stuff up over White girls emoting over a personal crisis. I.E. Guys of all types tend to prefer action movies over dramas. And since action movies translate across cultural boundaries better than dramas, Hollywood reacts by supplying more action movies and modifies them to sell better in Asia/China.

mrpinto June 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Translation as in, translating from English to Chinese might lose some subtleties in a drama. Explosions on the other hand are pretty easy to understand no matter your native tongue.

Mike H June 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm

“It seems as if the parent poster didn’t actually read what Tyler wrote with any intent to understand it, but immediately reacted on an emotional level.”

So what’s widely reported is that Asian markets prefer more action movies. What Tyler says is the move toward action movies reduce the presence of American females stars. How did he come up with that conclusion? Since he specifically mention “Asian male audiences” as the group that Hollywood wants to appeal to, I am asking where he got the idea that such group prefers to see less instead of more American females stars. I think you just missed my whole point. It would be better if some solid evidences are provided when one makes an arguments based on “my own understanding of what the other group of people’s preferences are”.

“..Guys of all types tend to prefer action movies over dramas.”

Just because action movies don’t star large number of female roles doesn’t mean that will hurt the career of prominent female stars. Have you counted how many action movies have leading heroines?

http://boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=actionheroine.htm

mike June 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

“Guy flicks” are movies that men go see with their buddies. “Chick flicks” are movies that men go see with their girlfriends. Reality TV is what women watch by themselves or with other women.

trichards June 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Reality TV stars like Kardashian or these “music” stars like Cyrus, Rhianna and Gaga are selling a TON more sex than Gwenyth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman or Natalie Portman, A TON MORE. And when you are selling that much sex in such a good looking package, and some of the sex is completely pornographied in a literal sense, it is no wonder the Female film stars arent selling as well.

Beyonce, Kardashian, Cyrus, Rhianna, and even LC are glorified sex workers that are barely a rung or two above full fledged porn stars. The men are enticed by the overly sexualized women, female consumers take notice, and subsequently less sexualized female movie stars decline in terms of relative celebrity power.

NK June 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

Now that you out it that way, I have to admit sex workers are my favorite type of stars.

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