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 AT&T’s SHAPE media conference in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank. Davis joined fellow actor Mayim Bialik on stage at the conference to discuss how gender parity in media can create social change. The conversation revolved around the need for diversity on screen to break stereotypes and encourage young people to pursue careers they might otherwise have felt were off-limits to them. 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. The panelists said that all forms of diversity on screen are necessary, pointing to films like Hidden Figures, which is about the key role a group of black 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.”
Barry Manilow gifted $100,000 worth of new band gear to a North Carolina high school in an area still recovering from Hurricane Florence. News outlets report the band at East Duplin High School couldn’t afford new instruments and uniforms, so they entered a national contest by the Manilow Music Project for help. In a video of the announcement at a Las Vegas show Wednesday, Manilow takes a pause from dancing and singing to crown East Duplin as the winner. Manilow said he had been “bombarded” with video entries from high schools across the country saying why they think they deserved the funds before giving East Duplin the $100,000 for new instruments and uniforms. The school’s band director said words can’t describe his gratitude.