04/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pondering the Bigelow Nomination in Larger Context

It's been over a week since the DGA win, and almost a week since Kathryn Bigelow got her best director Oscar nomination and it turns out that since then, she has been nominated for a second Oscar as one of the producers for her film The Hurt Locker. (When the nominations were announced last week, the credit were still pending.) So, if she wins best director and The Hurt Locker wins best picture -- both are conceivable -- she will win two Oscars in one night.

The reason why I want to talk about it is because I think that no matter how much Ms. Bigelow doesn't want to talk about the gender implications in her nomination, they are everywhere. I heard them when I was listened to the Oscar Talk podcast when Kris Tapley called her "hot" and Anne Thompson said that she's not 100% convinced she will win because the Academy is "overwhelmingly male and she just doesn't trust them."

I started thinking about this a lot more this weekend when I was reading the excellent new book Notes from the Cracked Ceiling by Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut which is all about the gender issues and the 2008 election. The book talks about how lots of people, especially young women, think that we have achieved equality, we are far from equal and what happened to the female candidates are examples of how far we have to go. (Mind you I haven't gotten past the Hillary Clinton section yet.)

While many believe we live in a "post feminist" culture, 2008 reminded us how far we still have to go.

But in hindsight, 2008 turned out to be just the opposite for women: a severe letdown, with damaging consequences. It revided old sterotypes, divided the women's movement, drove apart mothers and daughters, and set back the cause of equality in the political sphere by decades.


...the political culture does not take women as seriously as we would like to think. The glass ceiling may be cracked, as Hillary Clinton declared at the end of her presidential campaign. But it is far from broken.

Women in politics, though very different from women in Hollywood, still gives us a context to think about how women are looked at in general.

We all know that the Hollywood culture doesn't take women as seriously as we would like to think they do. The fact that there are so few female writers, so few female directors, so few female centric films are right off the top examples of the problems Hollywood has with women.

But this year has as most people like to say been a good year for women directors and I really hope that the successes we have seen -- like with Lone Scherfig's An Education being nominated for best picture and also for many BAFTA's -- are not a blip on the radar screen. But until there is critical mass -- at least 30% -- I'm afraid we are going to keep getting blips here and there and no real forward motion. That's where this is like politics. Even though on the surface it looks like women have made real strides in politics, on close examination we still have a really, really long way to go.

Awards Daily's Sasha Stone asked a bunch of people to ponder the Bigelow nomination and most people do not feel that her nomination and win will help other women directors and that women need to make movies that make money in order to be taken more seriously. Yet of course women don't get those jobs so it is a vicious circle.

He's one of the comments I found most interesting by Pete Hammond:

...she made a movie that looked like it was directed by a man. That plus the subsequent hype (not fostered by her in any way) about being the "first woman" has made her inevitable. Oddly if Hurt Locker WAS directed by a man we wouldn't be having this conversation. The award would be Cameron's to lose.

Bigelow had to be perceived to be like a man in order to break through. While I have said it before I don't believe that The Hurt Locker is a film for men because it is a war movie and things blow up, any more than I think Valentine's Day (an upcoming film) is a film for women because it is about romance.

But the whole acting like a man gives me real pause. As Susan Wloszczyna said is her response:

"If I watched The Hurt Locker, I probably would naturally assume it was made by a man given the subject."

Kathryn Bigelow longs for the day when people shouldn't know or care about the gender of the director. And quote frankly it's only us insiders who really care at all, but care we do and deeply. Here's what she said to the LA Times after her nomination:

I long personally for the day when the modifier is a moot point...I anticipate that day will come, but if 'The Hurt Locker' can make the impossible seem possible to somebody, it's pretty overwhelming and gratifying. At least we're heading in the right direction.

I long personally for the day when nobody cares that Kathryn Bigelow was married to James Cameron or how she looks. Because I have read articles that literally have said that James Cameron directed The Hurt Locker or that she only has a career because of him. But we lived in a world where Kathryn Bigelow is being held up to an absurd standard. She's a boy and a girl. She's the hot one and the kick ass one. She's everything to everybody. That's a lot of pressure on one person.

Here's a key sentence from the new report from The White House Project Benchmarking Women's Leadership (I am on the advisory panel for the report) that sums it up for me and the work that still needs to be done.

Across the board, the key to true transformation is advancing a critical mass of women into leadership, so that we can move permanently beyond gender and on to agenda.

Benchmarking Women's Leadership (The White House Project)

Originally Posted at Women & Hollywood