Picture 360

Infographic: How to win a Best Actress Oscar (spoiler alert: play a wife)

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Hey ladies! If you want to win an Academy Award for Best Actress, get cast as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, or girlfriend STAT! Fellas! If you want to win an Academy Award for best Actor, get cast as a husband, father, brother, son, or boyfriend STAT an important historical figure. That’s the lesson from these two fascinating infographics at The Huffington Post.

One demonstrates the roles for which women win Best Actress Academy Awards.


The other infographic reveals the kinds of roles that earn men the Award for Best Actor.


There isn’t much analysis. But here are some things I figured out after looking at the infographics.

The most common Best Actress-winning roles (30.2%) for women are those of wife, mother, sister, daughter or girlfriend. For example, Halle Berry as a mother and girlfriend in Monster’s Ball, Emma Thompson as a wife and sister in Howard’s End, Sally Field as a wife/widow and mother in Places of the Heart.

The most common Best Actor-winning roles for men (25.6%) are for historical roles. For example, Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in Milk (which he did totally deserve), Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, Collin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech. You may notice a pattern here, too. The male actors play characters who are so central, the films are named after them, literally in the first two cases, and figuratively in the third. The female characters, however, aren’t, apparently, important enough to determine the title of the film.

Now there are historical roles which earn women Oscars, but the category of husband, father, son, brother or boyfriend doesn’t even exist for men.

Women can also win Oscars by playing prostitutes or mistresses (4.7%). Men, however, have not won Oscars for portraying prostitutes or… masters? What the word for the-dude-someone’s-having-an-affair-with? Women are also able to score an award by playing a housekeeper or maid. No butler category for men.

But don’t worry! All’s fair in Academy Awards. Men get their own special categories. For instance, several have one awards for “law or military” roles (10.5%) and others have won playing “career achievement” roles.

What are the take-aways here? The Academy really likes to reward women for playing characters defined by their familial relations to others, and will also give them pats on the head for playing maids, housekeepers, prostitutes, or mistresses–other roles defined by their relations to others. Men, on the other hand, are rewarded for playing important historical figures or whatever the hell they want, and will get encouraging punches in the arm for playing men who have career achievements under their belts–particularly in the male-dominated spheres of law or the military.

So, when it comes to life–I mean, the silver screen–men should pursue high-achieving, leadership roles while women should pursue familial, domestic, sexual roles if they want to succeed. Clearly this applies to acting roles only and has no effect whatsoever on the sanctioning or gendering of social roles in the real world. Obviously not…

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.13.50 PM Katie Halper has been bothered by women’s roles ever since she was a child. She was very disturbed by the way Sandy changed for Danny in Grease and the seven brides were kidnapped and raped in a technicolor cute and funny way in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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