What Does 'Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue Say About the Female Film Roles In The Past Decade?

When Vanity Fair released its much-anticipated annual "Hollywood Issue" I had two immediate thoughts: One, "Oh, to be Amy Adams' leg!" and two, "My oh my, the British are coming!" Of course, this isn't entirely the intended effect of the issue: Vanity Fair's yearly Hollywood issue has always represented not just the biggest heavyweights in film from their respective year, but also the up-and-comers: This year, Channing Tatum, Reese Witherspoon, and Amy Adams — three of the most likable people in the industry — nabbed the main cover, while the insert features a slew of other big names in this year's Oscar race: Brits Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, and Felicity Jones, in addition to Miles Teller, Sienna Miller, and Oscar Issac.

What I've always found most fascinating about the issue, however, is how the editors choose who will represent women in Hollywood from year to year. On some occasions, the cover has been women-only, and in other years, it has featured absolutely no women whatsoever. This year, Vanity Fair gives us just four women amongst the 10 actors total, all of whom the magazine deemed to be at the front of the pack. It's no doubt the Hollywood Issue highlights who is getting a lot of attention in the industry, but, in a big way, it also says quite a bit about the kind of roles women are playing and being recognized for.

So, how does a decade of the VF Hollywood Issue and its representation of women look?

2015

Witherspoon is the biggest contender for Oscar gold in this group (though Julianne Moore is her toughest competition). Wild was such a personal, intimate journey — it was a stunning look into the complexity of the female soul.

You could say the same about all of the women of this year's cover, however — indicating this is going to be a close race. Amy Adams played an artist whose work was being stolen by her own husband, while Sienna Miller and Felicity Jones both portrayed resilient women as well. There's no meager voice in any of these roles, and that says quite a lot. (However, the lack of diversity amongst these actresses is something that should be noted.)

2014

2014 was a much better year for diversity in the Oscar race, as well as on the cover of Vanity Fair: Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomie Harris, Brie Larson, and Léa Seydoux all participated in films that stories about a variety of difficult conditions: women dealing with family turmoil, the darkest and most cruel era in American history, the life and legacy of an international political figure, mental illness, and the depth of female love and sexuality. Suffice to say, 2014 was a very good year for women on screen (if only we could say the same about women behind the camera, though.)

2013

It seems the magazine was going for a circus theme in 2013, in addition to featuring very young actresses: Kerry Washington was just becoming the sensation and universally beloved star that she is today, but it wasn't Scandal that put her on the cover — it was her role in Django Unchained. Emma Stone was then being recognized for her work in The Help as well as a slew of "America's Sweetheart" roles. Along with these two game-changers were Quvenzhané Wallis who stole the world's hearts in Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Olivia Wilde.

2012

ALL LADIES IN THE HOUSE! Give it up for Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Adepero Oduye, Paula Patton, Felicity Jones, Lily Collins, and Brit Marling. 2012 was clearly the year of, "the next big thing" ...though it's a little upsetting to see how many of these women aren't in as many projects this year as you might expect. Sure Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain are killin' it left and right, but other actresses on this cover haven't received the attention they deserve.

2011

We've got Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence (duh), Olivia Wilde (again!), Mila Kunis, Rashida Jones, and Noomi Rapace. Hathaway and Lawrence are still snagging huge films and are critical darlings these days — this was also before the unfortunate era of Hathahate truly began. What's most exciting about these women, though, is that they represent so many genres in their careers: action, drama, musicals, indies, sci-fi, and yes...comedy!

2010

Yet another year of young (and totally white) Hollywood women. This cover, though filled with many talented women, does make you a little sad about the state of diversity in Hollywood back in 2010. There's been a lot of talk this year about the big Oscar race being all white, but it's clear from 2010 — and many years prior — that this is sadly no new phenomenon. What I will say is exciting about this cover is that stars like Emma Stone, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, and Evan Rachel Wood are as powerful in quiet indie dramas as they are in blockbuster films, proving that, time and time again, women in the movies make bank.

2008

What is it with all-female covers and pastels? Anyway, I digress. Say hello to Emily Blunt, Amy Adams (clearly a VF favorite), Jessica Biel (before everyone was referring to her as Timberlake's baby mama), Anne Hathaway, Alice Braga, Ellen Page (woo!), Zoë Saldana, Elizabeth Banks, Ginnifer Goodwin, and America Ferrera. Many of these women who were dubbed the next big thing have remained very big things. It seems like 2009 was another year in which women were starring in the films and television shows everyone was talking about: From a teenage pregnancy to an assassination conspiracy theory — definitely a good year for women.

2007

Unfortunately, I can't confirm is any of these penguins are female.

2006

Don't get me wrong, Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson are incredible actors — but this photo just seemed to ignore that fact completely by keeping the man fully clothed, while putting them on the cover, naked. Come on Vanity Fair, you're better than this.

2005

HOLD THE PHONE. An all-female cover with some women in pants and almost no hint of pastel? I WANT TO GO TO THERE.

But in all seriousness, this photo represents the heavy-hitters (Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Uma Thurman), the soon-to-be-heavy hitters (Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller), and the people to pay more attention to (Claire Danes, Zhang Ziyi, Kate Bosworth). This is by far the most powerful of all of the covers. Bow down.

Images: Vanity Fair (8)