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: The Wolfpack, an Essential-Viewing doc directed by Crystal Moselle, “explores the blurring between the inner and outer lives of six teenagers raised in a Lower East Side apartment they were only allowed to leave, on average, a few times a year”; The Yes Men Are Revolting, co-directed by Lauren Nix, is the third film about a “prankster duo who…have pulled off a series of stunts posing as spokesmen for corporations and the U.S. government”; Jurassic World boasts exactly one female writer (Amanda Silver) and questionable gender politics; and Madame Bovary, directed and co-written by Sophie Barthes, stars Mia Wasikowska as the doomed literary dame.
- Spy won the mo’fucking box office this weekend, pulling in about $30 million and stabbing a hole in the hand of its competition. Most significantly, Spy beat Entourage, because Entourage is a relic of a simpler but darker time when the patriarchy reigned supreme; these days, everybody is too smart and too pissed off and too busy trying to tear down the patriarchy to make time for that type of nonsense. Or, because, as Jezebel put it, “Women don’t hate themselves.”
- Fans the world over have launched a flash mob campaign to demand a Black Widow solo movie. The flash mob took place in 16 U.S., Canadian, and Australian cities, with fans dressed as the superhero, complete with “red wigs and skintight leather.” Rielly also launched the hashtag #WeWantWidow. Why did nobody tell me about this? Can we have a mini flash mob right now?
- Nearly 50 percent of the films in this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest line-up (73 out of 150) have been either directed or produced by women filmmakers, thanks to the fest’s new head of programming and industry engagement Claire Aguilar. “I wanted to address certain issues in the programming balance—to get films made by and about women,” said Aguilar. “People said it would be difficult, but it wasn’t a hard goal to achieve, there are plenty of women filmmakers out there.” Very solid side-eye there, Claire.
- Over at IndieWire, director Jen McGowan is spreading the word about Film Powered, a new site “designed to foster community and increase the skills, health and success of its women-filmmaker members.” It’s free! Just like love. And this column.
- Karolina Bielawska’s Call Me Marianna, a drama about a man who decides to undergo gender reassignment surgery, won four awards at the Krakow Film Festival, including the International Documentary Competition’s main prize, the Golden Horn, and the Audience Award.
- Starting this week, applications are being accepted for the Women in Film’s 2105 Finishing Fund grant. To apply, submit a rough cut of your work, with at least 90 percent of the principal photography completed, by August 7.
- The New York-based Independent Filmmaker Project and Phosphate Productions have partnered to create a new prize, The Phosphate Prize at IFP, to “encourage indie film writers and directors to create scripts highlighting strong and complex female lead characters.” Shit’s due July 15, so get crackin’!
- Reese Witherspoon’s women-centric production company Pacific Standard is producing Opening Belle, loosely based on Maureen Sherry Klinsky’s novel about her experience as a former managing director for high finance firm Bear Stearns. Love Reese, love puns, love novels, love money, all in on this one.
- Elizabeth Banks may direct YA adaptation Red Queen, because Elizabeth Banks is running the game right now.
- Broad City writers Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello and Bob’s Burgers writers Lizzy and Wendy Molyneux will write a “female-led spinoff” of 21 Jump Street. It will be called 21 Pump Street! (Please don’t actually call it that, Hollywood.)
- The first trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 has landed, and it features a lot of Jennifer Lawrence looking very dark and upset. Don’t be upset, Jennifer. We love you.
- Here’s a first look at Ellen Page and Julianne Moore in the gay-rights drama Freeheld. I cannot wait to see this movie, guys.
Harbinger of doom: Kyle Smith is trolling feminists for page views and it’s working
I hate to feed the trolls (unless I’m feeding them TROLL POISON), but this is a column that looks at how the movie industry and its relevant media are treating women, so here we go. This week, The New York Post’s Kyle Smith wrote a piece titled, “Women are incapable of understanding Goodfellas.” Now, Kyle Smith is often an asshole in general, which he almost admits in this piece (he says that he and an ex-girlfriend who, gasp, didn’t enjoy Goodfellas, broke up because he was “a jerk”), but this is some next-level shit. Obviously the op-ed was published to incite reactions like mine, to rile up the feminist contingent and subsequently rustle up gazillions of page views, and it’s working. But I think ignoring that particular motivation—you know, the part where the New York Post says, “Fabulous! All the ladies will be furious! Sexism sells!”—would be a mistake. (As Film School Rejects’ Scott Beggs put it, “It’s also trolling, and I get that, but I believe it deserves a response more intelligent than, ‘Get the fuck outta here,’ although that can definitely be included.”)
A brief summary, so you don’t have to read it: Between some of the least nuanced thoughts about a movie I’ve ever encountered in my life (Kyle, you do not understand Goodfellas), Smith explains that women can’t ever truly enjoy Goodfellas because, “Henry Hill, Jimmy the Gent and Tommy are exactly what guys want to be: lazy but powerful, deadly but funny, tough, unsentimental and devoted above all to their brothers — a small group of guys who will always have your back. Women sense that they are irrelevant to this fantasy, and it bothers them.” Kyle Smith, it’s important to me that you understand that every time a woman is irrelevant to one of your fantasies, her life is that much better for it. He goes on to note that the movie is all about “ball-busting,” and “women (except silent floozies) cannot be present for ball-busting because women are the sensitivity police: They get offended, protest that someone’s not being fair, refuse to laugh at vicious put-downs.” He also infers that, were Goodfellas written by a woman, it would be a redemptive coming-of-age story, which “nobody would want to watch.”
I don’t want to devote much more space to this, because, again, I’m just playing right into his troll-y hands, but I do want to point out that when purposefully sexist bullshit makes it into a major news outlet because the editors know it will stir up controversy, and said controversy will stir up page views, we’re in trouble. (Especially because this strategy works so well, which the Post points out with feigned shock in a companion piece filled with angry reader responses.) Publishing misogynistic, nearly unintelligible “thinkpieces” designed to insult and anger women is a horrible, desperate way to do business and, unfortunately, not really uncommon anymore. I know we’re still talking about The New York Post, for God’s sake—and I know that plenty of other people and outlets have devoted time and space to ridiculing this nonsense, too—but it’s still massively fucked up. It’s also fucked up that a lot of (ignorant) men will read this, laugh in recognition, and think it’s okay to espouse opinions like these. Mostly, though, it’s just annoying. Stop it.
Sign of hope: Smart, influential people speaking out about feminism
There were several women and men willing to throw their hats in the feminist ring this week. Here are a few great quotes from around the web:
- THR has another great roundtable decrying Hollywood’s sexism, racism, and general mindfuckery this week, this time with six fabulous women by the names of Jessica Lange, Lizzy Caplan, Taraji P. Henson, Ruth Wilson, Viola Davis, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Read the whole thing; here’s an excerpt:
“MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL When I was starting out, I used to hear ‘no’ a lot and still do. And, ‘You're not sexy enough. You're not pretty enough.’
HENSON Heard those before!
GYLLENHAAL When I was really young, I auditioned for this really bad movie with vampires. I wore a dress to the audition that I thought was really hot. Then I was told I wasn't hot enough. My manager at the time said, ‘Would you go back and sex it up a little bit?’ So I put on leather pants, a pink leopard skinny camisole and did the audition again and still didn't get the part. (Laughter.) After that, I was like, ‘OK, f— this!'
JESSICA LANGE I've been in the process of retiring for the last 30 years.”
- Beautiful-lipped male person Tom Hardy, on the Mad Max press tour, expressed a desire for better roles for women: “Writing for women and films for women…there could be much better material. It could be much more advanced, especially today. It would be interesting, in the crime genre, [to] just take the men’s parts and have women play them, and not even question it, just go.”
- Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, during a Writers Guild Theater panel, on ageism in Hollywood: “Every human being has an emotional life going on, on some level or another. In movies, everyone stops being a sexual being at about 32, at least for women. [Yet] the men are allowed to go on until they’re 78. I’ve never worked that out.”
- Jon Snow I mean Kit Harington told Screen Rant he’s proud Testament Of Youth is a feminist film: “I think it’s unique in telling a woman’s story throughout that war, in being a war movie pretty much purely from the homefront and through a woman’s eyes. And that’s important on two levels because at that time there were three Oxford colleges that were solely women’s and there were 33 colleges in Oxford. Vera was a feminist. She was an early [standard] bearer for women’s rights. And yet even now it’s rare that you have a woman playing the out-and-out lead in a film, which is what our film does. It’s important this is a feminist film…I thought that this was a unique film because of that. You always want to look for movies that are different. And this is different because of that.”
- Aziz Ansari told The Guardian he’s always been a proud feminist: “Some people wrote: ‘Er, Aziz’s girlfriend turned him into a feminist,’ and that’s not true, I’ve been a feminist my whole life. There wasn’t a period where I was really against women and then started dating one and was like, ‘You know what? Men and women are equal.’ That definitely didn’t happen.” What prompted him to talk about it? “It’s interesting, you see interviews with female celebrities and they’re very scared of that word. It’s such an easy concept to get behind and a big part of it is that people don’t really know what it’s essentially promoting.”
- Elizabeth Banks shared her story with teen girls at Step Up’s Inspiration Awards: “Banks discussed her visit with Step Up girls at Los Angeles’ Gertz-Ressler High School. ‘They have incredible aspirations, they have ambitions, they have these beautiful dreams,’ she said. ‘But I also learned a bit about the boxes and labels that they feared might threaten those dreams. They were worried that nobody expected them to be anything beyond Latina, female, high school student, mother. They obviously knew they could be much, much more. And they didn’t want to be limited or defined by a few labels.’ Banks said that Hollywood is not much different when it comes to typecasting. ‘Specifically for the last 15 years, I think I’ve been in this box that just said, “Cute blond actress, kind of funny, small boobs.” ’ So Banks did something about it. She founded Brownstone Productions with her husband Max Handelman, and produced Pitch Perfect. When director Jason Moore was unavailable to film the sequel, Banks stepped up. ‘On top of acting, I started producing and directing because I knew I had more to offer an industry that clearly didn’t expect too much from me,’ she said. ‘So like the young women at Gertz, I don’t like being defined by those labels or by others, and I don’t like limits.’…As for people’s low expectations, those I like. Because those allow an opportunity to surprise people … like Pitch Perfect 2’s $69 million did.”
- Inside Out director Pete Docter talks to IndieWire about why it took so long for Pixar to focus its films on girls and women: “I think it is an unfortunate byproduct of the way we approach our films. Our work is a reflection of ourselves, very personal, and we are a bunch of guys. The characters might be cars or monsters, but they reflect us. This, however, was triggered from watching my daughter grow up. It reminded me of how out of step I was then with boys my age, who were into sports and other stuff. What stressed me out were relationships and social issues, what do you wear and how to fit in. A lot of the issues I faced in junior high was what got me into animation. It was easier to sit on the side and draw cartoons than to engage with people…Traditionally, animation has been dominated by men in the past. I don’t know why it attracted guys. But there has definitely been a shift towards having more women involved. Half the story crew were women, a first for us. I remember how Valerie LaPointe, one of our story artists, came in with these drawings she had done about the difficulty she had when she was young with her best friend. She was getting into boys, while Valerie was still innocently playing with toys. The friend would go off to talk to guys and she would just stand back and be puzzled.”
Overall, was this a good, bad, or neutral week for women in movies, Rachel?
This was a slow week in terms of Female Stuff—only one harbinger of doom! Can it be? So I’m gonna go ahead and give it a “good.” Spy won the box office over Entourage, Hollywood greenlit a bunch of woman-centric projects (I’m tentatively excited for 21 Pump Street), and even though Kyle Smith successfully trolled the entire Internet, the Internet rose back up to give him a verbal smackdown. Can we just ignore him from here on out, please? Or at least start sending him giant boxes filled with Goodfellas-themed tampons? I’m open to ideas here.
Further takes on the film and feminism front from around the web:
- Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson has eight great female roles originally written for men
- Fusion’s Kelsey McKinney on the three ways women are photographed for the cover of Rolling Stone
- The New York Times’ Manu Joseph looks at strong women in Hindi films
- IndieWire’s Dr. Martha Lauzen looks at the similarities between Cannes and country music
- Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic interviews Anita Sarkeesian
- The New York Times’ Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat thinks Melissa McCarthy and summer heroines have shattered a glass ceiling
- The Guardian’s Chris Elliott wonders if the outlet’s previous piece on age gaps in movies “missed its target”
- Cosmopolitan’s Carol Hartsell: Amy Schumer’s brand of feminism answers to no one
- The New Yorker’s Richard Brody on the “silent women” of Entourage
- New York Magazine’s Ann Friedman on the triumph of the “girl movie”
- Elle’s Emily Zemler interviews Paul Feig; thinks he should “teach a seminar on Hollywood sexism”
- Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan interviews Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling about Inside Out
- The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg doesn’t hate Entourage, mostly because it holds a mirror up to Hollywood’s obscene male entitlement
- The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard asks, “Is Jurassic World sexist?”
- The Mary Sue’s Marcy Cook casts nine leading ladies in iconic male action-hero roles
- Entertainment Weekly put Laverne Cox on its cover this week; this shit is awesome
- IndieWire’s Melissa Silverstein wonders why Testament Of Youth isn’t a “slam-dunk” for awards consideration