Disney partners with Geena Davis to implement a “spell check” on scripts for gender bias. Regarded as a fervent advocate for female representation in film and television, Oscar-winner Davis totes an impressive list of credits to her name including A League of Their Own, Grey’s Anatomy, GLOW, Commander in Chief, and cult classic Thelma & Louise.
Not limited to on-screen talent, Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Focusing on studies of representation gaps in entertainment, the foundation was inspired by Davis’ journey in parenting a young girl. No stranger to show business, Davis has shared personal experiences from landmark films to bridge the gap between gender prejudice. The Beetlejuice actress often quotes her Institute's mantra, “If girls see it, they can be it.”, and has prominently displayed the example that young women flocked to competitive archery after the release of The Hunger Games and Pixar’s Brave. Davis declares, however, there is still significant progress to be made.
Speaking at the New Zealand Inclusion Summit, Davis revealed her next step to eliminate gender inequality. As reported to THR, Davis has partnered with Walt Disney Studios to implement a digital tool dubbed “GD-IQ: Spell Check for Bias”, to analyze gender representation in the text of a script. The technology’s task is to tally the genders and ethnicities of characters. From there, the spell check will proceed to analyze the level of vocabulary among various groups, display opportunities for diversity, and reveal unconscious bias. Davis expressed her excitement at joining forces with Disney to use this technology moving forward:
I’m very proud to announce we have a brand new partnership with Walt Disney Studios using Spell Check for Bias. They are our pilot partners and we’re going to collaborate with Disney over the next year using this tool to help their decision-making, identify opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion to the manuscripts that they receive. We’re very excited about the possibilities with this new technology and we encourage everybody to get in touch with us and give it a try.
Adamant about not intending to attack screenwriters, Davis claims the goal is not to “shame and blame”, but expose the unconscious bias that emerges in screenplays. After a spellcheck treatment, informed adjustments can be advised, and made to scripts. Davis went on to declare, “We can make this change happen very fast. In the time it takes to create a new show or a new film, we can present a whole new vision of the future.” As of this writing, it remains to be seen what future Disney projects will use the new technology.
In addition to Disney's partnership, Davis shows no signs of slowing down and recently joined forces with Starz to produce the documentary This Changes Everything. Focusing on gender balance on screen and behind the scenes, the documentary will examine gender discrimination and feature interviews with Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, and more. Consistently riding the wave of change, the Mouse House is revered as an entertainment empire and adopting the script spell-check technology will influence more companies to do the same. Disney ensuring a platform for diversity, and taking proper precautions with scripts, will no doubt resonate on a global level.