One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented as part of The Paley Center for Media's Inside Media events. Held at the Paley Center in New York, this evening celebrates actress Geena Davis as part of the She’s Making Media series. Host Pat Mitchell (president and CEO, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and then brings Davis to the stage.

The conversation touches on such topics as: her exceptional height and “powerful” image; her portrayal of United States President Mackenzie Allen on the show “Commander in Chief,” which she also produced; her initial disinterest in an hour-long TV drama and change of heart upon learning of the role; how the show “took things head-on” and addressed important issues; its handling of stereotypes of women in power; the “undercurrent” of doubt about her character’s ability to lead; troublesome questions from the press regarding the possibility of a real-life female president; statistics about America’s lack of female representation in the government and “slow” process to a more balanced state; the show’s influence on popular opinion despite its one-season run; her famous film “Thelma and Louise,” now twenty years old; how she was “unprepared” for the strong audience response, especially from women; the film’s empowering tone despite its downer ending; the characters’ strong control over their own lives; the film as one of the first female “buddy movies” and speculation from the press that it would lead to a trend; similar comments regarding other female-driven movies that did not, in fact, lead to further films of that nature; her experience being pressured to play sports because of her size and her shyness about her physicality; discovering her “untapped ability” for softball on “A League of Their Own”; her children’s exposure to her more kid-friendly films; her discovery that “it’s OK to take up space” and work with the Women’s Sports Foundation, particularly in regards to “Title IX,” the law permitting young girls to participate on government-funded sports teams; her experience learning archery later in life and qualifying for the Olympic trials; her desire to learn physical skills “for real” for films; her childhood in small-town Massachusetts and her parents’ support of her desire to study acting; her decision to move to New York and try modeling as an entry to the acting world; landing her first role in the film “Tootsie” with Dustin Hoffman based on her modeling portfolio; her parents’ reaction to the film and her scantily-clad role; her “quirky” film “The Accidental Tourist,” for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress; her interest in the role after reading the book; the “out-of-body experience” of winning the Academy Award; the award’s positive impact on her career; her desire to avoid “girlfriend parts”; her preference for characters “who are in charge of their lives” rather than role models, per se; the media’s suggestion that boys have “more options” in life than girls; her creation of The Geena Davis Institute in Media after viewing children’s videos with her young daughter and noticing gender imbalance; the Institute’s study of children’s movies and discovery of trends involving the sexualization of female characters and their limitation to romantic, royalty-based plotlines; the industry’s “shocked” reaction to her findings and interest in improving; presenting her findings at the United Nations with her daughter present; her use of “mitigating language” and thoughtful questions when viewing programs with her children to diminish any negative impact; the good and bad elements of the media’s influence on children; her desire for “dramatic change,” though not necessarily legislation, aside from a law regarding research funds; a documentary involving both Davis and Mitchell about portrayal of females in media titled “Miss Representation”; her future goals and her desire to bring “Commander in Chief” back to the air.

To close the evening, Davis shares some statistics from a study by Maya Goetz, Ph.D., Head of International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, relating in particular to the popular character of Barbie and her unrealistic, “unattainable,” sexualized physical appearance, and the negative message it sends to children about the “ideal” figure.

Clips featuring Davis are interspersed throughout the program, including: “Commander in Chief” (2005); “Thelma & Louise” (1991); “A League of Their Own” (1992); “Tootsie” (1982); “The Accidental Tourist” (1988); “Buffalo Bill” (1983); and “Miss Representation” (2011).


  • DATE: August 15, 2011 7:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:17:20
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 106231
  • GENRE: Seminars


    • Pat Mitchell … Host
    • Geena Davis … Guest
    • Maya Goetz
    • Dustin Hoffman