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: Mad Max: Fury Road is so awesomely feminist that MRAs are boycotting it (see below…); Every Secret Thing, “the rare contemporary film that focuses on female characters and gives women the opportunity to tell their story, in front of and behind the camera,” is directed by Amy Berg and stars Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, and Dakota Fanning; Pitch Perfect 2, directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Kay Cannon, sees Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Anna Kendrick returning to the cutthroat world of competitive acapella; and I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner as a widow taking back her life.
- Natalie Portman will play Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an upcoming film titled On The Basis Of Sex. I’m sorry, it’s been almost a week since I learned of this news and I still haven’t fully processed it. It’s like a beautiful gift from the Female Stuff gods. Oh, and she’s also starring in 1) Alex Garland’s latest movie, Annihilation; 2) Rebecca Slotowski’s supernatural drama Planetarium; and 3) Jackie, a Jackie O. biopic. As Charles explained earlier this week, this overabundance of fantastic Natalie Portman news has sent me to an early grave.
- Jennifer Kent of the bone-chilling The Babadook has won the Australian Directors Guild Award. Variety notes that the film was largely shunned in Australia while embraced overseas. Perhaps this is their mea culpa?
- The New York Times has revealed the “secret identity” of the female Thor. I won’t spoil it for you!
- Marvel wants Ava DuVernay to direct an upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe feature—possibly Black Panther. As the brilliant Kate Erbland put it, “Although their commitment to diversifying their directorial portfolio is a fine thing, pigeonholing creative talent based on their gender or the color of their skin and how it relates to the character on screen is kind of a flimsy way to do it.” With that said, “If Marvel wants her, they are the ones who need to prove it.”
- Sony’s remaking teen-witch drama The Craft! With a female director! Do we need a new The Craft? Probably not. But you know what? I’ll take it.
- Cate Blanchett mused on gender, sexuality, and women in film in a wonderful interview with Variety.
Harbinger of doom/Sign of hope hybrid: MRA response to Mad Max: Fury Road
Men, women, and Keiths alike are here for Mad Mad: Fury Road. One of those Keiths, our own Mr. Phipps, gave the film five stars, saying it “set the standard by which future action films are destined to be judged.” But some—namely, Men’s Rights Activists, a.k.a. MRAs—believe it’s a nasty piece of feminist propaganda that will turn everyone on Earth into equal-rights-supporting monsters, subsequently destroying the carefully wrought system of misogyny that’s kept our society churning along so well all these years.
On the blog Return Of Kings, a pleasant fellow by the name of Aaron Clarey is calling for men (and “real women”) to boycott the movie. I won’t link to it, and please don’t visit it!, but here’s the text, via The Mary Sue:
“Not only REFUSE to see the movie, but spread the word to as many men as possible. … Because if [men] sheepishly attend and Fury Road is a blockbuster, then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.
[…] men in America and around the world are going to be duped by explosions, fire tornadoes, and desert raiders into seeing what is guaranteed to be nothing more than feminist propaganda, while at the same time being insulted AND tricked into viewing a piece of American culture ruined and rewritten right in front of their very eyes.”
More, from a commenter:
“Hollywood is a garbage propoganda [sic] machine which spews out this feminist drivel filth into the minds of today’s young audience. Even though science has told us and proven, that men are physically stronger than women, it is nonetheless discarded by the forces driving this feminist nonsense.
There is a sick agenda at play here, and it only continues to get worse over time. First this, and now the upcoming Terminator Genisys which shows Sarah Connor in a more heroic and superior position to that of Kyle Reese, really makes me wonder how much further down the toilet society is going to go down, in it’s ridiculous attempts to try and reverse the traditional gender and biological roles.”
The comments continue to devolve from there, with men saying they’d “belt” their wives and daughters if they ever “exhibited confidence” or refused to “exude obedience and timidity.” Oh, and they’re not happy about The Vagina Monologues’ Eve Ensler consulting, either. Probably the whole “monologuing vagina” image didn’t sit well with them.
The good news? Every news outlet that’s covered this story has found it, at the very least, utterly laughable, and at most, deeply fucking terrible. And the Twitterverse’s main response has been along the lines of, “Whoa, if any movie is pissing off MRAs this badly, I really can’t wait to see it.”
If Mad Max: Fury Road does manage to shake up the world a little bit, can it shake things in Return Of Kings’ general direction? Like, maybe when they’re near a high cliff or something?
Sign of hope: Smart, influential people speaking out about feminism
There were several women, one Ethan Hawke, one Colin Hanks, and one George Miller willing to throw their hats in the feminist ring this week. Here are a few great quotes from around the web:
- Charlize Theron, gunning for a spot in the Female Stuff cabinet, on Live! With Kelly And Michael: “I've always wanted to explore the [action] genre a little bit more, especially because I think it's such a misconception that women don't like the genre, or that they don't want to go and see these movies. I just feel like women have been so misrepresented in these films — why do we have to go and see the genre every single time with the girl in the back of the frame in a push-up bra? Why isn't there a girl that's standing on the same playing field with the guys? We don't want to be guys, but in a post-apocalyptic world, we will survive! There's something really, really nice about playing this woman who is a woman, first of all, but is a rogue warrior just like Max, and can fight just as well as Max with one arm.”
- Amy Poehler, in Fast Company, on questions she gets from men in Hollywood: “I have these meetings with really powerful men and they ask me all the time, ‘Where are your kids? Are your kids here?’ It’s such a weird question. Never in a million years do I ask guys where their kids are. It would be comparable to me going to a guy, ‘Do you feel like you see your kids enough?’”
- Judy Greer, in an essay for Glamour, asks, “Why should a man make more than me?”: “I am one of the lucky actresses. I've worked regularly, in everything from 13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses to my current TV show, Married. My career is fulfilling, and I'm happy. But sometimes I wonder: In a parallel universe where I did everything the same but happened to be a man, would I be more successful? Would I have to hustle less? Could I eat carbs? (OK, now I'm dreaming.) In the past few months, I've become convinced of one thing: If I were a man, I'd be paid more. I realize that some people may not sympathize with an actress who gets to be in movies and on TV or a living. But if you take away names and vocations, the fact is that in 2015 a man is still getting paid more money to do the same job a woman does, in Hollywood and everywhere else. And no matter where you live or what you do, that's bullshit.”
- Helen Hunt, in the Huffington Post, on women and aging in Hollywood: “What are the great movies for younger women where they're the protagonist [being] made now? You know what I mean? The whole thing -- there's no equal rights amendment. We're fucked…I certainly drive around and I'm tired of the billboard where she's barely in her underwear and they're selling, you know, a watch or something. I’m over it, to be honest.”
- Lee Daniels, Damon Lindelof, and several other writers talk about the state of the industry as it pertains to diversity in The Hollywood Reporter. The entire thing is worth a read; here’s a highlight:
DANIELS Are there African-American writers on your show?
TREEM There is one writer of color, but he's not African-American.
DANIELS Are there any African-American writers on your show?
GANSA There are not.
DANIELS How about yours?
DANIELS How many?
KING Last season there were two, but one of them went off to create her own pilot.
DANIELS Good. How many on your show? I'm just curious.
WILLIMON How many women do you have?
DANIELS We have three women.
WILLIMON How many Asian-Americans do you have?
DANIELS We have no Asian-Americans.
WILLIMON Just, it's a weird question. But we have zero African-Americans in our writers room of six.
- Hot Pursuit director Anne Fletcher, in Forbes, about the challenges of making a women-centric film: “I’m going to protect the women characters and make sure that they’re authentic too. I still want to stay true to what makes women different and not have them be just mimicking what men would do in this type of comedy. The one thing I will say, that I was nervous about when I originally took the movie, and fought against, and won, was that the original script was rated R. I’m suggesting that it’s been done in the industry far too many times and I could see the forest for the trees. There’s going to be swearing involved, which is fine. There would be that weird obligatory sexual scene that they’re like, ‘Oh, put that funny sex scene in,’ or having the two girls doing something like that and, to me, if the movie is being made primarily for women and hopefully for men to really enjoy when they go, women don’t want to see that, it’s not funny for us. Those scenes, to me, are very silly. We have a lesbian scene in the movie, that I, was one of the things that I tried to say, ‘How is this going to make the audience laugh, how do the girls that are coming in to see this movie, laugh, because two women kissing, outside of being a lesbian couple, we don’t find it funny. It’s his (Jim Gaffigan’s) point of view of what he sees with these two girls. I think, ultimately, it ends up being a smart outcome because Daniella (Vergara’s character) knows that this is an Achilles heel for men, watching two women kiss, and they’re in harm’s way. The other part of the PG-13 thing, for me, Sofia has such an enormous fan base and people love her and know her so intimately from Modern Family. I did not want to eliminate her fan base, or minimize that. Let’s do PG-13, let’s find a really funny way for these two women to talk and have a great time doing it. Women are very different than men and that’s great. We’re different people and genders, and we should be, and we have different things that make us laugh and you need to have the freedom to explore that.”
- Carey Mulligan, official VP of Female Stuff, in Time: “When mention of the Bechdel Test comes up, Mulligan asks for a clarification of the rules. (Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test asks whether a film has a scene with two or more women who speak to each other about something other than a man. If the answer is yes, the film passes.) She thinks for a moment. At last, she says, ‘I’m literally going through all the roles I’ve done and seeing which passed the test.’…’The public have expressed a real desire and a hunger for female-driven stories in the way that they’ve gone to the cinema to spend billions on The Hunger Games, or Blue Jasmine. People do want to see great female stories, but it’s like the industry hasn’t caught up yet. It’s sort of limited to one enormous franchise or Cate Blanchett, who is extraordinary.’ Change is happening. Yet when it comes to meaty, complex roles for women in film, ‘there’s nowhere near enough.’ ”
- Glamour rounds up some of the most inspiring quotes from Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival. Here’s Geena Davis on life imitating art: “The former president of Iceland—she was president for 16 years—told me she would often get letters from little boys that said: 'Do you think it would ever be possible for a boy to be president?' If you see it, it can be real. We've study all the occupations of women characters in film and on TV—and one of the jobs in which women characters are most represented is in forensic science. And over the past few years, the demand in the real world for women in forensic science has skyrocketed. If we regularly see women in important positions, women in leadership positions, you'll see that life will imitate art.”
- Rachel McAdams, in Marie Claire, on “likable” female characters: “I love that [my True Detective character] is not the girlfriend or the wife. She doesn't really care what everyone thinks; she feels no responsibility for other people's feelings. She's not trying to be charming, which isn't always the case with a leading lady. There's [usually] sort of a responsibility to be a little bit likable… Not that you want to be a horrendous character, just a little more human.”
- Colin Hanks, on Instagram, begged for more Star Wars merchandise featuring women: “So, the other night, on May the 4th to be exact, I sat down with my 4 year old daughter and showed her Star Wars: A New Hope. It was her first time watching it. She loved it. Her favorite character was Princess Leia. She kept asking ‘Where is Princess Leia? Where is Princes Leia?’ A few nights later, I show her Empire Strikes Back (or as she called it "The Emperor stripes back) and within four minutes of watching the movie she says, ‘It's so tiring watching these movies. It's always boys, boys, boys and there's only one girl.’ I could not of been more proud of her. So today I take her to Toys ‘R’ Us to buy her a light saber and a Princess Leia toy. After being told that the light sabers were ‘in the boys section’, she picks out the light saber of her choosing and asks about the Princess Leia toy. One problem: they only had the ‘slave Leia’. As you can see, sad depressing, ‘slave Leia’. So wrong. The only good to come from this is that, once again, my daughter makes me look at the world in a whole new light. #HelpusJJyoureouronlyhope”
- Liv Ullman, in IndieWire, on why the film industry hasn’t changed over time for women: “It hasn't changed the way it should have. I get angry because men have a tendency to talk down to you as a woman. I hide it but I get angry sometimes. The first movie I made, the first week I was offering to bring people coffee and doing things I know I didn't have to do. It's like I'm playing in A Doll's House—I'm working on it, every day. I do believe this generation of women is much better off, but it's still tougher to be a woman in this business than it is to be a man.”
- Ethan Hawke, on Larry King Now, referring to Patricia Arquette’s feminist Oscar speech: “Patricia is a brass tacks, old-school feminist and I have so much respect for her. I think it’s about time. She’s right…I have been making movies for 30 years. I’ve done probably more than 40 movies, and this year is the first time I’ve been directed by a woman. People think this gender equality thing has happened, but it’s fascinating having three daughters and seeing the world through their eyes. It really does turn you into a feminist.”
- George Miller, in Vanity Fair, on Mad Max: Fury Road’s feminism: “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.”
Harbinger of doom: This week in Marvel bullshit
Oy. I’m getting really tired of typing “Marvel bullshit.” Marvel and Disney removed Black Widow from yet another piece of merchandise this week; this time, though, they pulled her out of a toy depicting her very own scene and replaced her with Captain America. At least replace her with Banner, guys! Show some respect.
As io9 noticed earlier this week, Hasbro’s Marvel Avengers: Age Of Ultron Cycle Blast Quinjet Vehicle is a “fast-diving jet with a secret weapon—a component that launches a motorcycle! With your Captain America figure speeding away on his powerful cycle, the jet can climb back to higher altitude for recon and air attacks.” Oh, cool. It’s just like that part in the movie where Captain America jumps from a jet, then speeds away on a powerful cycle. Except that was Black Widow. Coming down from aid jet to save Captain America. Who was getting his ass beat by Ultron. Hm.
As the A.V. Club points out, it’s “so weird that both of these toys also forgot to include Black Widow in their pictures of the Avengers team on the boxes.” So weird! What an oversight! They’re probably so embarrassed.
Sign of hope: The A.C.L.U. inquiry into Hollywood’s hiring practices
As Kate reported earlier this week, the A.C.L.U. looking into Hollywood hiring practices. Can I get a “fuck yes”? Oh, and can I get a “finally”? Someone in the comments section on Kate’s piece suggested they use Female Stuff as evidence, which is the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in life. This is me officially giving permission, A.C.L.U.!
Here’s the official word, courtesy of the New York Times: “The A.C.L.U. will ask state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of Hollywood’s major studios, networks and talent agencies, and possibly bring charges against them, for what the organization described as rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors.” The org went so far as to issue a letter, addressed to various agencies, that lays out the reasoning behind this claim, along with a call for investigation, action, and change.
As Kate points out, while this plan is ambitious, it’s not unprecedented—in the 1960s, the Justice Department found employment discrimination in Hollywood and reached a settlement between the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers and several unions; remedial measures ultimately failed. So fingers crossed that things turn out better this time around. If they don’t, they’ll have a really pissed off Dissolve commentariat to respond to.
Several prominent female directors have spoken out in support of the investigation. Here’s Kathryn Bigelow’s statement to Time: “I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender. Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward thinking and progressive people yet this horrific situation for women directors persists.Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry. Change is essential. Gender neutral hiring is essential.”
And IndieWire reached out to a group of female directors, including Hannah Fidell, Leah Meyerhoff, Susanna Fogel, Nicole Beckwith, and Sarah Goodman, all of whom applauded the effort and told stories of their own experiences with gender discrimination. Here’s a particularly resonant one, courtesy of Cornelia Ravenal, co-founder of Wilderness Films:
“A few years ago, my male partner and I were working with a young male producer, when I realized that no matter how gracefully I phrased my emails, he'd respond curtly, patronizingly or sometimes not at all. Once I was copied on a thread I was not supposed to see, and saw a comment to another partner that he didn’t like my "tone." So I decided to try an experiment. I continued to write emails as before, but instead of sending them myself, I asked my male partner to send them from his email account under his name. The response was fascinating: when it seemed as if the emails came from a man, the same male producer was cordial, constructive and responsive. At one point, he commented on how much easier it was to be emailing with my male partner than with me – unaware that in fact, I was still the person with whom he was communicating.”
Overall, was this a good, bad, or neutral week for women in movies, Rachel?
Gonna call it: This week was good. I know! What world is this? The A.C.L.U. inquiry is pretty huge, and it’s the exact type of response that we Female Stuffers (no? yeah, no.) have been hoping for. I’m still pissed at you, Marvel, for what’s now become weekly nonsense. And I’m always pissed at you, MRAs, for advancing your dangerous and hateful agenda. But while there will always be MRAs, there will also always be people who mock the MRAs roundly in the public sphere, then proceed to completely ignore them, and for that, I am thankful. Mostly, though, this week I’m thankful that the A.C.L.U. is taking discrimination against women seriously. Let’s hope real change comes as a result of these investigations.
Further takes on the film and feminism front from around the web:
- Entertainment Weekly’s Nicole Sperling welcomes us to the “summer of funny women”
- Flavorwire’s Pilot Viruet on Lifetime’s disturbing obsession with kidnapped women
- Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson on how Mad Max: Fury Road could be the “feminist triumph of the year”
- The New York Post’s Sara Stewart thinks that Marvel and its sexism have hit a new low
- Uproxx’s Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals speaks to adult-film director Dana Vespoli on how rough sex and feminism can coexist
- The Guardian’s Glen Helfland covers the San Francisco Film Fest, full of “lo-fi superheroes and lesbian road movies”
- The New Republic’s Shannon Kelley: “Hollywood is finally making way for the female loser”
- Time’s Eliana Dockterman looks at women’s changing role in weed culture
- Variety’s Anrdew Wallenstein on the “misunderstood genius” of Amy Schumer
- IndieWire’s Dorothy Snarker on the “great gay hope” of Ellen Page and Julianne Moore’s Freeheld
- Diane Keaton interviews Emma Stone in Interview Magazine
- The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman on how the cult of youth “cheats young and old alike”
- The L.A. Times has an infographic depicting the dearth of women directors in Hollywood, broken down by studio and
- Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls spoofs disaster-film tropes with “Deleted Scenes Of Women In Disaster Movies Written By Men”
- The AP’s Jill Lawless looks at how Cannes attendees are debating the dearth of female filmmakers
- Buzzfeed’s Anne Helen Petersen on how Anna Kendrick is resisting the Hollywood Cool Girl trope
- The Washington Post’s Melissa Silverstein on why women being shut out of Hollywood is harmful for movies
- Grantland’s Alex Pappademas on the masterful, maniacal, surprisingly feminist Fury Road