Maria Giese has been fighting the good fight and has begun taking legal action against Hollywood’s near complete shut-out of women directors. It might result in a class action lawsuit against the studios forcing them to change. After all, money talks in Hollywood.
As we speak, the feds are talking to women directors about the problems they face. Catherine Hardwicke was on NPR this morning talking about how she went from the critically acclaimed hit Thirteen, to the launch of Twilight, which should have guaranteed her a career in Hollywood. It did just the opposite. The feds are going to decide whether or not there has been gender discrimination.
Women aren’t afforded the same kind of ongoing coddling that male directors get. They aren’t ushered through and mentored. Projects aren’t specially sought for them, as happens when fostering male. They are brought in, given one chance and if they fail they are exiled pretty quickly. The reason many of them are stuck making “women’s movies” is because those are the only kinds of movies the male execs trust them with. Both Ava DuVernay and Kathryn Bigelow have proven that women can make movies that aren’t just about women in relationships – love-me-love-me-not movies, which women directors should only make if forced.
I watched a showcase of short films in Laguna Beach and was very excited that there were so many women filmmakers featured. Please let one be about something other than a relationship, I inwardly begged. Those kinds of movies usually appeal only to women – that’s 50% of moviegoers. All of the good ones, the important ones, the interesting ones were all done by men and those will appeal to 100% of the moviegoers because they are about the human condition, not just about love-me-love-me-not. I do not lose hope that women will get the chance to show they can direct superhero movies and action movies and courtroom dramas and period pieces. I know they can. After this investigation, they might have the opportunity to show Hollywood that they can.
Women are stepping up, mobilizing and trying to fight for equal pay for starters. When Jennifer Lawrence wrote her essay about not getting paid as much as her male co-stars it was hailed as a brave thing to do. She is one of the few who can do it because she can, as she’s said, green-light a movie just by saying yes. Amy Adams, as it turned out, got paid about half what Bradley Cooper got paid but she was in no position to make demands. Most women aren’t – except maybe Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence. Most are not valued the same way. They are shown the door and another female star is always waiting to take their place.
As great as 2015 has been for women on screen – Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Brooklyn, Carol, Suffragette, Room, and even Star Wars – it’s been an all too depressing year for women behind the screen. Suffragette was one of the few films directed by a woman to get anywhere near the Oscar race and it’s perhaps been killed by the social justice crowd who were willing to dump that one movie for a cause that maybe lasted a day. The stigma remains long after the controversy passes. Women have been quite prominent in the documentary branch, however, where they are making all kinds of films, like Amy Berg’s doc on the FLDS, Liz Garbus’ Nina Simone doc, Ondi Timoner’s Russell Brand doc, Laurie Anderson’s The Heart of a Dog, just to name a few. These women are making vital, interesting movies that are visually stirring and as powerful as the docs directed by men. It is only in the feature film arena where women are shut out.
If the FBI finds that their has been discrimination, will that help or hurt women’s position in Hollywood? Who’s to say. But sitting around and waiting isn’t working. Making good films that earn money and awards isn’t working.
The important thing for women – competitive as they are with each other – to do is to stick together and support one another so that every time a film comes out, even if it makes your stomach turn at the thought of actually seeing it, to buy a ticket to it — even if it’s a godforsaken relationship movie – yes, even if it is! Stop tearing down women who gain ground, like Diablo Cody. Women are judged, lest we forget, in more ways than men are by the male-dominated Hollywood power club. They are judged by other women on how they look, how cool they are, how politically correct they are, how powerful they are (Oprah), how successful they are (Gwyneth). Even if you think their films are not very good – if you can stand to buy a ticket, buy one.
Maria Geise is fighting the good fight and I hope her lawsuit prevails. I suspect that if the major studios were forced to give women a shot they might find themselves pleasantly surprised. Too many times men are brought in to “correct” the “mistakes” women supposedly made. Women always take the fall and men walk away mostly clean. Men are getting away with it every day in Hollywood with the help of lots and lots of women. Now it’s time for the worm to turn.