The actor and advocate spoke at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as part of the Ringling College Library Association Lecture series.
Geena Davis declared at the age of 3 that she wanted to be an actor — not an actress the Academy Award winner told the audience Feb. 13 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Her lecture was the second in this year's Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series.
She cited the dictionary definition of the word actor as "a person who acts," a distinction to be expected from Davis. In addition to a successful acting career, the actor also created the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
She remembers a professor addressing her class at Boston University where she majored in drama. He told her class that they were choosing to enter an extremely challenging field. Less than 1% of them were likely to make a living by acting.
Davis looked at her peers.
"Oh my god these poor kids," Davis said as the audience roared.
Davis did go on to earn her living by acting and winning an Academy Award for her role in "The Accidental Tourist."
Since her role in "Thelma and Louise," Davis has been selective about the roles she takes. She told the RCLA audience that she considers how her role will make women feel. After making "Thelma and Louise" Davis said she realized "how few opportunities we give women to feel excited and empowered about women in movies."
But she concedes that her ability to choose is a privilege.
"The only reason I have been able to be picky about the roles I accept is because I haven't run out of money yet," Davis said. "If one day I sign on to play Sean Connery's comatose wife, you'll know she's broke."
Davis has also become a champion for women and girls in media. She told the audience that the ratio of female and male characters in film has remained the same since 1946.
"We are saying to them that women and girls are less important as men and boys," Davis said.
But she sees media as both part of the problem and part of the solution. By showing children worlds where men and women are equal, Davis believes that real equality can be achieved.
"Think how dramatically different the world would be if kids grew up seeing that ratio," Davis said. "We could create the future by what people see now."