The 87th Annual Academy Awards Show is coming up on February 22nd, and now is a good time to look back on this year's nominations. When reviewing the categories, one will notice an interesting trend. There is a representation issue, but who is missing?
Jessica Chastain at the 2015 Critic's Choice Awards received the Most Valuable Player Award for her roles in film thus far. She is known for portraying strong, intellectually empowered women. In her speech she spoke about diversity and representation in Hollywood, and she encouraged there to be a discussion about these kinds of issues.
In the past she has specifically focused on female representation, telling Indiewire "I'm speaking out as an audience member who is going to the cinema and noticing there's a problem here because I don't see women being represented. I don't see Asian-American actresses begin represented. I don't see women in their 60s being represented in film. ... There are these really fantastic actresses out there, but there are so few opportunities."
The characters in the films nominated for Best Picture this year are compelling, inspirational characters that evoke a powerful emotional response. These characters struggle against a harsh society that constantly attempts to repel that which is different. There are scientists who revolutionize their fields as we know it, but are oppressed by physical ailments and homophobia. A legendary reverend fights against racial oppression and leads a non-violent protest, sparking the Civil Rights movement. The theme is obvious, these characters are enigmatic heroes, and yet, not one is a woman.
What does that message portray?
In the documentary Miss Representation (2011) Marie Wilson the Founding President of the White House Project states "you don't have that many women really in leadership so the way that it gets done, to a certain extent, and the way problems get solved often have to do with Hollywood and the films that get made, the documentaries, the television shows."
Due to this, how a woman is portrayed in the media shapes how women are perceived in every day life. The women nominated this year for leading actresses are mostly supporting leads to the male protagonist. Fortunately, there seems to be an increase in the strong female characters represented in Hollywood, but these women still don't have leading roles in films. Wild and Still Alice are refreshing because these storylines actually feature women on their own journey as the main protagonist, and yet these films didn't make it to the Best Picture category.
Granted, I'm not saying these films deserve to be nominated for Best Picture simply because they star women, I'm pointing out the abundant lack of female representation in recognized, high-caliber films. Jessica Chastain a great example, but is it enough? The media-makers are the ones who control what is shown, and therefore control how women are represented themselves.
Let's take a look at the women who MAKE the media. Women nominated by the Academy for Directing: 0. Women nominated by the Academy for Cinematography: 0. Women nominated for Screenplay: 0. After a depressing run through the nominations, it's very clear; Hollywood is not the woman's game. Women are stereotyped as sex objects, wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, assistants, the femme fatale, but rarely the hero. This is because women are not in the position to change these views. They aren't given the opportunity based simply on prior experience and history within the industry. The few celebrated women filmmakers rarely achieve their status based solely on their work. Often they work with small films, or if they are A-listers, they're related to a celebrity male, or made their way in other facets of the industry (i.e. Kathryn Bigelow and Angelina Jolie).
Put simply, this phenomenon is BS. There seems to be this inexcusable assumption that women cannot create films about men, because they aren't men and will skew the view. Yet, male directors and filmmakers can make films about women. In the end, we're all people endowed with this ability known as perception, and despite the successful career of one director, there's always a different view of the story by another. Women and men will differ in viewpoints, but isn't that the point of filmmaking, to have creative expression? Both the directors for Wild and Still Alice are male. If Hollywood can trust a male to truthfully portray women in film, why can't women themselves be trusted to do the same? Hollywood is basically telling women filmmakers they can't make films about men because they don't understand men, and they can't make films about women because they don't understand themselves, so the women must be kept where they belong, behind the scenes and out of the limelight.
Personally, I think the Hollywood hypocrite's run has gone on long enough. Women as actresses have always been a fundamental aspect of Hollywood itself. They represent the glamour and beauty that made Hollywood what it is today, but this is a new age. Beauty can exist with power, and dominance should not be defined by one's gender.