Historically, the movie industry hasn’t done the best job of including or representing women. Female Stuff is a regular feature that examines how it’s improving (…or not).
Sign of hope: Projects and films about, by, and/or starring lots o’ ladies
This week, plenty of women-centric projects were green-lit or celebrated, and women-centric movies landed in theaters or your home (or will be in theaters or your home sometime before we all die). Here are a few:
- New in theaters this week: Carey Mulligan fights the patriarchy in Far From The Madding Crowd; Kristen Wiig wins the lottery and buys her own talk show because why not in Shira Piven’s Welcome To Me; Fashion icon Iris Apfel gives zero fucks in Iris; Marie’s Story tells the tale of a young French girl born blind and deaf; Helen Hunt directs Ride, in which she moves to L.A., picks up surfing, and smooches Luke Wilson.
- Tribeca screened multiple movies from female filmmakers, including Pamela Romanowsky The Adderall Diaries, Hemal Trivedi’s Among The Believers, and Helene Zimmer’s Being 14. Laura Bispuri—whom Tasha interviewed at Tribeca— won the film fest’s Norah Ephron Prize for her “transgender odyssey” Sworn Virgin. Buzzfeed’s staff breaks down eight more films.
- IndieWire has the lowdown on Hot Docs, a Toronto film fest “screening strong documentaries by strong women about strong women.”
- The Directors Guild of America is accepting apps for its 21st annual Student Film Awards for Women and Minority Directors. Winners get $2,500 and the chance to have their film screened in a “special ceremony” at the DGA theater. Sounds dope.
- Some Kind Of Hate, an upcoming horror film, is going to be a “feminist slasher movie,” according to its director Adam Egypt Mortimer. The film “centers on a teenage boy (Ronen Rubinstein) tormented by his schoolmates who resurrects Moira (Sierra McCormick), a girl who was bullied to the point of suicide. Both with his sympathy and, eventually, without it, Moira wreaks slasher-style vengeance on their persecutors.” Wonderful. Thank you, Adam Egypt Mortimer, for your movie and for your awesome name.
- Stone-cold badass Viola Davis is going to star as stone-cold badass Harriet Tubman in an upcoming HBO film. This marks the third recent black-woman-focused biopic from HBO, including Bessie (starring Queen Latifah and based on the life of Bessie Smith) and Confirmation, in which Kerry Washington will play Anita Hill. Shondaland crossovers for days!
- Leslie Mann, longtime wife/mother/love interest in R-rated comedies, is finally set to headline her own R-rated comedy.
- Obvious Child’s Jenny Slate and Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm are reteaming for an FX comedy pilot about female friendship. This feels like a very personal gift from some higher power. Meryl, is that you?
- Broad City writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs will write a “female-driven” 21 Jump Street spinoff. This also feels like a gift from whoever just gave us the FX pilot. Meryl, you’re too much.
Harbinger of doom/sign of hope hybrid: Shit People Say To Women Directors & Other Women In Film
Remember Shit My Dad Says? Okay, we don’t need to get into it. This week saw the launch of Shit People Say To Women Directors & Other Women In Film, a Tumblr about…shit people say to women directors and other women in film. The site accepts anecdotes and tales of terror from anonymous women in the industry and publishes them so that they world may know all of the bullshit they have to put up with. “Until now, we haven’t had a platform to share some of the let’s call them ‘unusual’ things people have said to us while working,” reads the site’s intro. “This is for catharsis and to expose some of the absurd barriers women face in the entertainment business.”
Let’s first take a hot second to celebrate the fact that this Tumblr is a thing. Hooray! This Tumblr is a thing! Let’s expose the deeply rooted sexism of the film industry via the Internet!
Now let’s decry the site’s actual content, which illuminates the bleak and terrible Hollywood universe that female directors are forced to inhabit (if they’re even lucky enough to make it that far) on a daily basis. There are already nearly 100 posts, and the site’s only existed for a week. Here’s a sampling:
- “You’ll speak when you’re spoken to, camera bitch.”
- “I only hired her to see if her bush is as red as her hair. I think it’s fake.”
- “Oops! I shouldn’t swear when there is cunt in the room.”
- “There is no such thing as gender inequality in film.”
- “We need to get her boyfriend here for the weekend. She needs to get fucked.”
- “How did you get so far so fast, besides the fact that you give good head?”
Oh, and here’s what happens when you Google “best directors.”
Sign of hope: Smart, influential people speaking out about feminism
There were several women willing to throw their hats in the feminist ring this week. Here are a few great quotes from around the web:
- At the White House Correspondents dinner, Cecily Strong casually zinged the shit out of the political patriarchy several times: “Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to try and tell you comedians how to do politics. That would be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. I mean, can you even imagine? Crazy.”
- Mark Ruffalo, making me swoon on Twitter: “.@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please.” (Boys can buy that merch, too, Mark. It’s okay, I still love you.)
- Mark Ruffalo, making me swoon in an interview in which he gamely answers sexist questions usually aimed at women
- Kristen Stewart continues tearing Hollywood a new one in Harper’s Bazaar: “Hollywood is disgustingly sexist…Women inevitably have to work a little bit harder to be heard. It’s crazy. It’s so offensive it’s crazy.”
- Penelope Ann Miller, via HuffPost Live, on aging in Hollywood: “I'm getting mother roles—or not getting mother roles, but [those are] the roles that there's interest for me for—it’s not the girlfriend roles. Which is okay. I don't need to play the ingenue anymore…I’m the woman who's saying, ‘Of course it's going to be the young up-and-coming actress against the older actor, and yeah, it sucks! It sucks. I do find that it's frustrating.”
- Carey Mulligan, now vice president of Female Stuff to Meryl Streep’s president, on the lack of female roles in Hollywood: “I've always been looking for interesting, real female characters, complex real women. These two particularly came up one after another in a weird way. Suffragette is obviously a big feminist movement film but it's this sort of bizarre thing that came up. And this character I'm playing on stage in New York has a similar feminist quality to her as well. I'm so lucky because they don't come up that often and these came up one after another…Before I did Madding I took a year and a half off because there was just nothing -- these parts don't come up…It’s hugely frustrating that there's such an imbalance, but in terms of me taking time off: I'm fine with waiting. I wish there were more choices obviously, but I'm alright at taking time off. I do think it's hugely unfair how little women are represented in our industry, but I've been very lucky with these last two. But yeah, it's obviously a massively imbalanced world.”
- Rose Byrne on playing an unorthodox pregnant woman in Adult Beginners: “I loved dispelling this myth that pregnant women are saints and don't have feelings and don't get frustrated or bored or lonely or scared. It’s a far more realistic representation of what's going through someone's mind when they're about to give birth to another human being. That was really refreshing and challenging. I don't think people are comfortable with watching that.”
- Helen Mirren, at Tina Brown’s Women In The World conference, on wage equality and representation: “I do think the most important thing to teach our daughters is to gain financial independence…People say ‘It’s so terrible women don’t have great roles in movies.’ I say, forget that. That doesn’t matter. Change roles for women in life, and as night follows day, you’ll find the roles for women in drama. Work on that.” (Not sure I fully agree with that second part. It’s overly simplistic and a little victim-blame-y. What do y’all think?)
- Omar Epps, in Essence, reflects on the empowering Love And Basketball: “Just last night I went out to dinner and these two girls came up to me and said they grew up on the movie and they are looking for their ‘Q.’ Who knew, when I was shooting it, I had no idea. To me I was just coming in everyday and doing the work. It’s one of those things that happen once in a while. Not very often does a film speak to different generations across cultural and gender lines…I think it’s sort of that fairytale love story for women. Monica and Quincy had a real friendship and that’s the basis of every great relationship, which is really hard to do…It’s really empowering for women. Certain undertones of the film resonated with me also. I just thought it was fresh, I thought it was of that time and progressive and we hadn’t seen something like that.”
- Director Carol Morley, in Radio Times, about her new film, The Falling: “In a way, it’s about the power of young girls. Girls are so often disempowered, so to look at that power and what lies behind it felt quite exciting…When you do see women on film, which isn’t as often as men, they aren’t complex enough. They’re often objectified when they’re younger, and when they’re older the roles disappear, which is ridiculous – I mean, we don’t all die in middle age.”
- Elizabeth Banks, in THR, on directing Pitch Perfect 2: “The list of women who get to make studio-level films is very short. And I'm not quite in that club yet. Until this movie comes out, then we'll see. This shoot is the test. I like to get A’s.”
Overall, was this a good, bad, or neutral week for women in movies, Rachel?
I’m writing this on Thursday night, which means so much could go wrong in the next 15 hours or so. But as of right now: It’s a good week. Nothing… terrible happened? It’s weird, you guys! We only had one harbinger of doom, which was tied to a sign of hope: There’s now a website where women can publish their horrific experiences in the film industry. Will it help shed light on a serious issue? Yes. Will it change anything? Who knows. Will it dissuade other women from lending their talents to Hollywood? Ahh, I hope not. Elsewhere, Hollywood’s women were spewing feminist fire this week, and a bunch of women-driven projects were given the green light. Somebody must have kidnapped and hid Harvey Weinstein somewhere. Thanks, whoever you are.
Further takes on the film and feminism front from around the web:
- L.A. Weekly’s Jessica P. Ogilvie on how Hollywood keeps out women
- The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti on why going without makeup isn't a radical act
- Buzzfeed’s Bim Adewunmi: “An article about black women shouldn’t have to come with a warning label”
- IndieWire’s Jessica Kiang looks further into why female directors almost never get blockbuster gigs
- The Wrap’s Itay Hod wonders whether Bruce Jenner’s revelation will impact Hollywood’s transgender castings
- Jezebel’s Andrew Heisel on how midcentury movie magazines sold marriage to women
- IndieWire’s got a summer preview of women-centric movies
- Daily Life’s Clem Bastow: “I want more women to make films I loathe”
- Decider’s Olivia Armstrong has five reasons women ruled at Tribeca
- The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato on how Marvel slut-shamed Black Widow
- In Time, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood talks about why it’s so important for celebrities to talk about their abortion experiences
- Little White Lies’ Sophie Monks Kaufman revisits Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” essay—can it tell us anything new about gender politics in cinema?
- Screendaily’s Jeremy Kay interviews Geena Davis about the Bentonville Film Festival
- Vanity Fair’s Rachel Tashijan talks to Iris Apfel, star of doc Iris
- Our own Kate Erbland previews the Bentonville Film Festival over at Film School Rejects
- The Mary Sue’s Teresa Jusino unpacks actress Alice Eve’s transphobic comments about Bruce Jenner
- Dazed’s Alex Denney asks, “Is female sexuality taboo on screen”?
- Huffington Post’s Gina Hall on what’s being done to address Hollywood’s gender gap