There must be something in the water because over the last week there have been several substantive pieces and one panel (which I will blog about later) discussing women and film. These discussions are not new, they happen all the time, but having two pieces come out in major newspapers like the Washington Post and the NY Times on the same day makes one take note. Why now? Who knows? Maybe it's because there are several women's names at play for best director. Maybe it has to do with the release of the Shriver Report on the state of women. I don't care about the reason, I'm just glad we are talking.
What I like about these conversations is the anger they are inciting. People are pissed. Why are women still being marginalized? We are over 50% of the population, we buy 50% of the tickets. We spend money. We want to see movies by and about women, as well as seeing movies by and about men. I'm not asking for special treatment, just decent treatment. That shouldn't be too much to ask.
In Ann Hornaday's piece "Women & Film: With female characters, why does Hollywood fear that the stronger they are, the harder they fail?" in the Washington Post (which I am quoted in) she makes the argument that strong women are out at the movies. I agree with Ann but I will add that you can still see strong women in smaller dramas released by indies that will never make it to the multiplex near you. So if you want to see a strong woman on film, you need to probably live in NY or LA or another major city if you are lucky. Most other people (which is basically everyone) can only find these women on netflix (if they know what they are looking for). That totally sucks. Here's what producer Lynda Obst said:
Dramas are dead. Some of the greatest parts for women -- the Academy Award parts for women -- are often in dramas, and this is the worst time for dramas since I've been in the business for the last 10,000 years.
Lynda Obst knows what's going on. She's in the business of producing dramas and I would imagine she's thinking about how she's going to make a living in the future.
And according to Manohla Dargis in her piece Now Starring at the Movies: Famous Dead Women in the NY Times this past Sunday, if you are going to be seen at all on screen as a woman you need to be dead. That's such a wonderful feeling for all of us out there.
You can’t blame filmmakers (or actresses) for raiding crypts. It’s rarely been more difficult to be a woman in the movies than now, particularly in the United States, where for the past few decades most blockbusters and microbudgeted D.I.Y. enterprises have been overwhelmingly male.
Dargis who is not known (at least by me) as a champion for women takes it even a step further:
Female stories have become so marginalized on American movie screens, we should be grateful filmmakers are raiding the history books. ... A woman has to have been legitimized by history, ruled a country, inspired a poet, or ignited a revolution in fashion or cooking to have a shot at some serious screen time. It also helps if she’s played by Meryl Streep.
I do like a historical biopic, but this devaluing of women's lives and experiences makes me want to hurl. It's seems to me that the more power and confidence women gain in real life it is slowly and surely being stripped away on the big screen. It's like we are all being punished. Strong women have been disappearing from movies for some time (not that there were ever that many to begin with) so when we see one like Amelia we all get so excited because it's like finding water in the desert. We are starved for these images. And when they disappoint, they hurt so much worse. I knew that I would have issues with Amelia. That didn't make it hurt any less. I take my strong women onscreen very seriously cause I know that when they fail, I (and all other women) get screwed.
As Obst said most dramas are now on TV, but I don't see TV making films like Amelia. The closest one I've seen recently is the Lifetime Georgia O'Keeffe film, and that was just ok.. We see women in dramas on TV shows. But movies are different. Even Cate Blanchett's latest endeavor, a period piece where she was to play Lady Edwina Mountbatten in Indian Summer directed by Joe Wright was shelved. I'm not going to pretend it's only women suffering. When Brad Pitt movies get canceled, things are bad, really bad.
Many people want to escape when they see movies. But not everyone.
There has to be a diversity of offerings. At the rate we are going the
only films that will be seen are the Transformers type films. That would be such a shame.
Women & film - With female characters, why does Hollywood fear that the stronger they are, the harder they fail? (Washington Post)
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