Last week, at New Zealand’s Power of Inclusion Summit, Oscar-winner Geena Davis announced her Institute on Gender in Media will partner with Disney to use a new AI tool to help “spell check” its scripts for potential bias. The tool, called GD-IQ: Spell Check for Bias, helps identify opportunities for filmmakers to increase representation by women and girls as well as other underrepresented groups in movie scripts. (GD-IQ stands for Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient, if you’re wondering.)
In the closing keynote of the summit, Davis said, “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 in 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.”
The Spell Check for Bias tool uses technology developed at the University of Southern California to scan scripts and identify opportunities for inclusion. The tool can determine how the characters’ gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status, and other characteristics that are underrepresented on film stack up to real-world population metrics. It can also provide data on how many speaking lines each group has, the sophistication of the language each uses, and social hierarchy of the characters.
Geena Davis poses with Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella’s castle; Photo from Screen Rant
Davis made it clear that her goal is not to “shame and blame” well-meaning screenwriters, but rather to uncover potential opportunities to increase audience exposure to underrepresented groups. Davis has been an ardent advocate for inclusivity in film, specifically for female representation. In 2004, she started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute’s mission is to work with the entertainment industry to “engage, educate and influence the creation of gender balanced onscreen portrayals, reducing harmful stereotypes and creating an abundance of unique and intersectional female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”
In her keynote, Davis went on to say, “There’s one category of gross gender inequality where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed absolutely overnight — and it’s onscreen. The very next project somebody makes — the next movie, TV show — can be gender-balanced. 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. Yes, there are woefully few female CEOs in the world, but half of them can be female onscreen immediately. How are we possibly going to get the number of women and girls interested in STEM careers that we need for science, technology, engineering and math? There can be droves of women in STEM careers now on TV and in movies, and then it will happen in real life.”