The “Best Actress” Paradox: Outstanding Feature Films Versus Exceptional Women's Performances

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Abstract

On the basis of prior research on acting careers, it was hypothesized that exceptional women's performances are less likely to be associated with outstanding feature films than is the case for men. This hypothesis was tested in 2 studies. In Study 1, 2,157 films that received Oscar nominations or awards between 1936 and 2000 were examined, whereas in Study 2, I scrutinized 1,367 films that received awards or award nominations from 7 major professional, journalistic, and critical associations from 1968 to 2000. In both studies, a significant gender discrepancy was found, a differential that persisted after the introduction of a large number of statistical controls and that showed no tendency to diminish over time. The results are discussed in terms of possible explanations and directions for future research.

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