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Geena Davis says Hollywood could achieve parity: 'Cross out' men in scripts and sub women

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USA TODAY’s Laura Petrecca interviews film star Geena Davis about a new report that takes a look at how women are portrayed in movies.

LOS ANGELES – Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis says achieving gender parity on screen is simple, and it could happen overnight.

“Just go through (the script) and cross out a bunch of male first names and put female first names. That’s all you have to do,” Davis told the audience during a panel Saturday at ATT’s SHAPE media conference in the LA suburb of Burbank.

Davis joined fellow actor Mayim Bialik onstage at the conference to discuss how gender parity in media can create social change. The conversation revolved around the need for diversity onscreen to break stereotypes and encourage young people to pursue careers they might otherwise have felt were off-limits to them.

“Why wouldn’t we need to see people who are like us to be able to imagine what we could become?” Bialik said.

Previously: Did ‘Thelma Louise’ move the needle for female-led films?

Related: Mayim Bialik struggled to spoil herself after ‘Big Bang Theory’ finale

The panel was born from a study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media that found women felt encouraged to pursue scientific, medical and engineering (STEM) careers because of “X-Files” character Dana Scully, an FBI agent and medical doctor. Of the women surveyed in the study, 63% of those working in a STEM field said Scully served as a role model for them growing up.

Bialik, who also holds a doctorate in neuroscience and recently wrapped her time playing the role of neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” said seeing characters like Scully on screen and having real-life mentors is crucial for young women to pursue careers in science, medicine and engineering.

“I was raised in a climate where if you didn’t learn things as fast as the boys, it meant that it wasn’t for you,” Bialik said. It’s important “to have a mentor, to have someone that you can see is living the life of a scientist and also has a social life – all the things that the lone scientist in the laboratory stereotype doesn’t give us.”

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  • 24/7 Tempo has identified the biggest summer blockbuster each year since 1975 based on domestic box office data provided by box office reporting service Box Office Mojo.nbsp;1 of 46
  • 1975nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Jawsquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $1.15 billionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $260.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $7.0 million2 of 46
  • 1976nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Omenquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $257.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $60.9 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $2.8 million3 of 46
  • 1977nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Star Warsquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $1.60 billionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $461.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $11.0 million4 of 46
  • 1978nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Greasequot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $694.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $190.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $6.0 million5 of 46
  • 1979nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Amityville Horrorquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $310.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $86.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $4.7 million6 of 46
  • 1980nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Empire Strikes Backquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strong Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $884.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $290.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $18.0 million7 of 46
  • 1981nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Raiders of the Lost Arkquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $797.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $248.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $18.0 million8 of 46
  • 1982nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrialquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $1.28 billionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $435.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $10.5 million9 of 46
  • 1983nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Return of the Jediquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $847.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $309.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $32.5 million10 of 46
  • 1984nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Ghostbustersquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $641.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $242.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $30.0 million11 of 46
  • 1985nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Back to the Futurequot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $532.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $210.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $19.0 million12 of 46
  • 1986nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Top Gunquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $432.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $179.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $15.0 million13 of 46
  • 1987nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Beverly Hills Cop IIquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $354.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $153.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $28.0 million14 of 46
  • 1988nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Who Framed Roger Rabbitquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $343.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $156.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $70.0 million15 of 46
  • 1989nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Batmanquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strong Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $567.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $251.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $35.0 millionbr /br /nbsp;16 of 46
  • 1990nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Ghostquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $463.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $217.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $22.0 million17 of 46
  • 1991nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Terminator 2: Judgment Dayquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $439.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $205.9 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $102.0 million18 of 46
  • 1992nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Batman Returnsquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $353.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $162.9 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $80.0 million19 of 46
  • 1993nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Jurassic Parkquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $825.9 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $402.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $63.0 million20 of 46
  • 1994nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Lion Kingquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $803.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $422.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $45.0 million21 of 46
  • 1995nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Batman Foreverquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $381.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $184.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $100.0 million22 of 46
  • 1996nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Independence Dayquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $624.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $306.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $75.0 million23 of 46
  • 1997nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Men in Blackquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $492.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $250.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $90.0 million24 of 46
  • 1998nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Saving Private Ryanquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $412.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $217.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $70.0 million25 of 46
  • 1999nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Star Wars: Episode I ndash; The Phantom Menacequot;nbsp;strongbull;/strong Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $813.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $474.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $115.0 million26 of 46
  • 2000nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Mission: Impossible IIquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $360.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $215.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $125.0 million27 of 46
  • 2001nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Shrekquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $426.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $267.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $60.0 million28 of 46
  • 2002nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Spider-Manquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $626.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $403.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $139.0 million29 of 46
  • 2003nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Finding Nemoquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $554.9 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $380.8 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $94.0 million30 of 46
  • 2004nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Shrek 2quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $640.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $441.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $150.0 million31 of 46
  • 2005nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Star Wars: Episode III ndash; Revenge of the Sithquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $534.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $380.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $113.0 million32 of 46
  • 2006nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manrsquo;s Chestquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $582.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $423.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $225.0 million33 of 46
  • 2007nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Spider-Man 3quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $440.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $336.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $258.0 million34 of 46
  • 2008nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Dark Knightquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $671.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $535.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $185.0 million35 of 46
  • 2009nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Transformers: Revenge of the Fallenquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $485.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $402.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $200.0 million36 of 46
  • 2010nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Toy Story 3quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $480.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $415.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $200.0 million37 of 46
  • 2011nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $432.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $381.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $125.0 million38 of 46
  • 2012nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;The Avengersquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $692.7 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $623.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $220.0 million39 of 46
  • 2013nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Iron Man 3quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $440.1 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $409.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $200.0 million40 of 46
  • 2014nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Guardians of the Galaxyquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $371.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $333.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $170.0 million41 of 46
  • 2015nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Jurassic Worldquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $712.2 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $652.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $150.0 million42 of 46
  • 2016nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Finding Doryquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $506.0 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $486.3 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $200.0 million43 of 46
  • 2017nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Wonder Womanquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $415.5 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $412.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $149.0 million44 of 46
  • 2018nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Incredibles 2quot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $597.4 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $608.6 millionnbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $200.0 million45 of 46
  • 2019 (so far)nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Biggest summer blockbuster: quot;Aladdinquot;nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (adjusted for inflation): $270.3 million (so far)nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Domestic gross (unadjusted): $270.3 million (so far)nbsp;strongbull;/strongnbsp;Production budget (unadjusted): $183.0 million46 of 46

“You’re seeing the full, complicated, amazing woman living life as a scientist,” Bialik said of characters like Scully and Fowler. “That’s what I needed as a young girl that wasn’t there for me.”

This doesn’t just apply for gender, either. The panelists said that all forms of diversity onscreen are necessary, pointing to films like “Hidden Figures,” which is about the key role a group of African-American women played in the U.S. space program, as leading the way for more complex stories on people of any gender or race.

“As much as people think Hollywood is liberal and open-minded and progressive thinking, they’re doing a worse job of reflecting society than the abysmal numbers in real life,” Davis said. “If we show it, it will happen in real life.”

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