THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Where We Are as Women (In Film)

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)

Now Starring at the Movies: Famous Dead Women (NY Times)