Can actors play actresses the opposite sex

A lot has to change, and quickly! - On the situation of actresses in the German film and television industry

Half of the population in Germany consists of women and men, there is a similar ratio between actresses and actors, women work in all areas of the film industry, they also make up half of the audience, and in contrast to Saudi Arabia, for example, the rights are formal of women in our society are not restricted.

Nevertheless, fictional cinema and television productions primarily tell the stories of men; women are not the better half but the worse third. An inventory.

We know this from the cast lists of many classical theater plays: ten, fifteen men in all age groups face two women: one very young and one very old. The city theaters take this ratio into account, and even today the ensembles are made up of an average of one third actresses and two thirds actors.

The scripts of current German film and television productions are written in the present and most of them are set today. But the occupation seesaw has still not leveled off.

Figure 1 shows an evaluation of the 18 nominations for the German Film Award in the category of best film 2010 to 2012 (Source: Deutsche Filmakademie and Wikipedia - more detailed here:

Something similar can be found on television. Figure 2 shows the roles of the 37 new crime scenes in 2012 (source: ARD). There are currently 21 investigation teams, 19 German, 1 Austrian and 1 Swiss, a total of 15 investigators and 28 investigators. In addition to the permanent ensembles, there are a number of episode roles in each Tatort, resulting in an overall ratio of 1 to 1.8 - without distinguishing between main and secondary roles. So again almost twice as many male and female roles. (more detailed here)

Of course, these comparisons do not say anything about the quality, scope, importance or age distribution of the roles, they only show the cast rocker.

But if the role relationship - roughly 1 to 2 - does not correspond to the social gender distribution, is it then at least comparable with the statistics of the working or job-seeking population?

Figure 3 shows three graphics: the Population distribution, the employees with social insurance and the registered unemployed in Germany as of December 31, 2011.

The x and y axes of the three graphics are scaled differently. The population (Figure A) is recorded from 0 to 95+ years (source: Federal Statistical Office), and the reference axis goes up to 4.5 million. The categories are grouped into 5-year groups, under “25”, for example, are people between the ages of 21 and 25 years.

Graphics B and C have the same scaled X-axes. However, the Y-axes (luckily!) Differ by a factor of 10, the axes go up to 2.5 million or up to 250,000 (source: Federal Employment Agency).

A good 82 million people live in Germany, including almost 1.5 million more women than men. However, women are not overweight in all generations. As Figure A shows, there is a slight overweight in men in all age groups under 60. The baby boomers in the early 1960s and the so-called “pill break” from the end of the 1960s (that is the step from 40 to 45 year olds to 35 to 40 year olds) can also be clearly seen. From the age of 60 the numerically slight predominance of women begins. Those now 70 to 75 years old were born in the late 1930s.

The employees subject to social insurance contributions (Figure B) and the unemployed (Figure C) are also recorded in 5-year categories. According to the definition of the Federal Agency, only actively registered people who are directly available to the labor market are unemployed. For example, women who stay at home to raise children and then want to start their professional life for the first time or want to return there (and may not have found childcare yet) are not recorded, and they often do not report to the employment office because they do not receive unemployment benefits would get, but that's a different topic.

Not really surprising: there are more men than women in every 5-year age group, both among employees with social security insurance and among the registered unemployed. The curves of the employees, viewed from young to old - with the dent in the 35 to 40 year olds - behave analogously to the population curve. The peak in the 50-year-olds and the following descent of the curve is also the same. The somewhat more pronounced decline in employment among women aged 30 to 40 compared to men in the same age group could be related to motherhood, but that is only a guess. The number of men is also falling slightly, and there is also a slight decrease in the population, both for women and for men in the generations born after the “pill break”.

How does it compare with actors working or looking for work in film and TV (Figure 4)?

The database of crew unitedActor Videos(Graphic A) contains actors working in the film and television industry. The indication of the age or year of birth has been mandatory since 2010, but it does not have to be displayed in the profiles, so that many actors tend to use a from-to-playing age display. The values ​​in the table are random samples, so "25" in this case means actors whose playing age is 25. This means that an actor who states the age of 20-30 is recorded in three columns (20, 25, 30) and an actress who states 21-29 appears only in the 25-year column. In fact, 4686 actresses and 4501 actors are represented in this database, but the age graph is based on 8482 and 8729 game ages, respectively.

Graphic B "ZAV year" again follows a 5-year categorization. 1980 includes all actors born between 1976 and 1980. The ZAV currently represents. 3,809 professional actors for the film and television sector (there is probably an equally large number of actors in private acting agencies).

I'm in the database Filmmakers (Graphic C) there are currently 19,380 professional actors represented. All actors have to indicate their year of birth and can optionally add a playing age or a playing age range. A comparison of this information resulted in three groups: actors whose playing age corresponds to their actual age, actors whose playing age is a few years above and below their actual age, and actors whose playing age only goes down, i.e. from e.g. from 5 years younger to their age.

This phenomenon also fits with the entries by crew united, graphic A is shifted slightly to the left compared to graphic B, by the way, both for men and women (to dispel the prejudice that only actresses “make themselves younger”) .

Three statistics on the age distribution of actors - what do you notice? In the younger age groups there is a considerable preponderance of actresses up to around 1972 (Filmmakers) and 1971-1975 (ZAV). This then tips from 1969 (Filmmakers) or 1966-1970 (ZAV), i.e. for 43 to 48 year olds. In many older years there are almost twice as many actors as actresses.

Why is that? The fact that more young women than young men take up the acting profession is not only confirmed by these graphics but also by the number of applications to drama schools. But what happens after a few years of work?

The theory that the kink, i.e. the steeper decline in the number of actresses, is related to the possibility of starting a family, or the point in time when the children start school, contradicts the statistics in Figure 3 (employed or registered unemployed). Why should it be more difficult for actresses with children than, for example, for teachers, scientists, putwomen, doctors or factory workers with children? Especially since an entry in a film database - or being represented by the ZAV - is not yet to be equated with (full-time) employment.

No, the actresses who no longer appear in the databases have turned their backs on their profession.

Why? Probably because there are no or too few roles for them. In any case, women are much less featured in films and series than it corresponds to social conditions. But this imbalance worsens with age.

  • There are more male roles
  • The male roles are spread over a larger age spectrum
  • the female roles are often cast younger, e.g. a 40-year-old character with an actress 10 years younger.

Take the box office hit “Keinohrhasen” (2007). The main character Ludo Decker (Til Schweiger) meets his former classmate Anna Gotzlowski (Nora Tschirner) again. A comparison of the ages of the actors shows that when Nora Tschirner started school at the age of 6, Til Schweiger was already 23½ years old.

Another example: the episode “Class Reunion” from the Cologne Tatort (2010). Commissioner Max Ballauf (Klaus J. Behrendt) goes to the 30-year high school graduation meeting. At the time of filming, Behrendt was 50 years old, that fits well, the actors of two other classmates were 53 years old (Oliver Stritzel and Rolf Berg). Two classmates were made up of considerably younger actresses: Catrin Striebeck (44) and Karoline Eichhorn (45).

Third example: the telenovela "Hand on Heart". This was about students of a grammar school, teachers and parents. It is of course to be expected that the majority of the pupils were played by older actors. But does this mean that adults have to be filled with younger people to compensate? When shooting began in 2010, Amelie Plaas-Link was 21 years old, she played the student Lara Vogel. And the 27-year-old Caroline Frier played her mother Miriam Vogel. Then there was the school director Helena Schmidt-Heisig, who had completed her studies, legal clerkship, several years of school service and several years at the ministry. It was played by the 40-year-old Kim-Sarah Brandts. No wrong. The actress was also only 27 years old in 2010.

These under-age casts are another reason why there are so few roles for actresses over 30 - and they reinforce the distorted image that is painted by men and women in our society.

Measures in the film and television industry that counteract the disadvantage of half a professional group - and which would of course be a service to the general public at the same time, because why should the general public only ever be told stories from a part of the population? - are overdue. In addition to the scriptwriters and the editorial offices and production companies who decide on materials and roles, the squatters are also challenged. I know there are a lot of guidelines and not everyone can always occupy / propose / act as they want, but are this problem and its effects even known and is it in the room when new substances are discussed?

If it's not about the central pair of lovers or the murderer in a crime thriller: does a role have to be filled with the gender suggested in the script? How important is the age of a role for the plot? The logic of age is thrown overboard often enough (why actually?), Can that happen much more often, even in the other direction?

Many people inside and outside the industry do not notice the unequal role relationship and the disappearance of older female roles. Maybe because male dominance is normal on German television and we are used to it from an early age. Who noticed, for example, that the Olympic competitions in London were covered by 26 reporters and only 1 female reporter for ARD and 29 reporters and only 3 female reporters for ZDF, and who has ever counted the male and female figures on Sesame Street? (This is only about the pure quantity, even comparing the quality of the roles would go too far at this point.)

I know that at the moment when “the question of women” arises in a social discussion, other disadvantaged people are often referred to: “But men are also affected by sexism / domestic violence / old-age poverty” Yes, of course they are. But much less . In this respect, the reference to exceptions or minorities often appears as a dissuasion, watering down or, in the worst case, refusal to discuss. When the Federal Association of Film Actors negotiates a collective agreement with the Producers' Alliance, it is not constructive to put the contractual situation at independent and private theaters on the agenda, however much it may be in need of improvement. Accordingly, it is also not a good idea to lump the debate about the situation of actresses, which will hopefully soon be broader, into one pot with other issues. There is no bracket “women and other minorities”, because women are not a minority, neither in our society nor among actors.

A comparison of the proportion of women in the crew areas of director, script, camera, sound, editing and producer in the 19th Berlinale competition films and the 9 nominations for the Best feature film Oscar 2013 results in the following:

In the Oscar films, the proportion of women directing and scripting was 11 and 8%, respectively, 21% for editing and 0% for camera. (more detailed here)

In the Berlinale competition, the proportion of women for directing and scriptwriting was 15 and 14%, for editing 26% and for camera again 0%. (look here)

In Germany it looks a little better. Figure 5 shows a further evaluation of the aforementioned 18 nominations for the German Film Award 2010 to 2012 (category “Best Feature Film”).

The percentage of women is shown for the nine crew areas of director, script, producer, camera, editing, production design, costume design, make-up and casting. Yes, men and women are overweight. But compared to the Berlinale and Oscar films, the participation of women is less bad, no value is below 20%. 4 of the 18 films were directed by a woman and there were also 4 female cameramen. On the other hand, no man was responsible for the costume design, and in the make-up area, only 2 of the 32 named were male. However, I do not know how many men or women are being trained in the individual sectors or are and remain in employment, that is the next thing to investigate.