Gender in First and Last Shots

One of my many pet peeves, which are mainly responsible for taking time from writing blog entries, is collecting first and last shots of movies (which you can see here). I decided to take a semi-empirical look at them in light of the cultural revolution we’re seeing right now about sexual harassment and gender equality. This is not a new topic for me as I’ve written about it many, many times. But today I want to try a new approach based on the thought: what do first and last shots of movies tell us about representation? Considering that both the first and last shots have a large significance for a movie, their importance in representation can’t be understated. The first and last impression of a movie have a strong impact on the audience.

Here’s what I’m looking at: first and last shots of 1.376 movies, which adds up to 2.752 individual shots. From this pool I searched for shots that show either just a single man or woman. No groups or couples (maybe next time, this took long enough already).  This amounts to 549 shots of individuals, which is still a lot. From those 549, 390 show a man (71%), while only 159 show a woman (29%).

Let’s compare what we have. Men very often get to do ‘cool’ shots, poses where they seem strong, self-confident and in charge. I have counted around 65 of those.


For women I have found about 5 ‘cool’ shots, clearly less.


There are each 8 shots where people are seen as a victim of something, but I see a difference between them. Then men are shown this way:


Dead, hurt, yes, but only twice depicted as suffering or tortured.

With women it’s different. In my sample alone, I found 5 examples of a horror movie favorite, a final shocking ‘twist’ attack in the last moments that is often focused on women shrieking in terror. I’m sure there are more examples of that and probably not many with men in that role.


The other examples show them at least clearly pain.


In connection with that, you also find more images of women crying than you find of men.


One of the most surprising things I found (although it fits into our stereotypes), is that men are shown way more often driving a car than women in these shots. We have 5 women behind the wheel, while men are in the driver’s seat 17 times. They even get to steer a boat. Or fly a plane. Or a broom.


There are also more shots of just the eyes of women, which rarely happens with men (of which only one is looking at us and one is a child).


Or just female mouths.


There are at least 5 shots where women are sexualized in some way or objectified.


The only similar male shot I could find was this one (in which Stallone basically objectifies himself):

Rocky V 1.jpg

Does that prove anything? I think it shows a trend that is representative for our culture in general. This image is (probably) changing but we’ll still have to face decades of images that are already there and are repeated and consumed to reinforce these old stereotypes and categories. Culture is represented through its artifacts, no matter if it’s a book, a movie, a comic or a song.

Since I continue collecting these, I will revisit them in the future. What do you think?