New Summer Movies, Same Sad Story.
The movie industry is failing women—this has been a long known fact.
In 1978, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that women were “significantly underrepresented” in the entertainment industry. About thirty years later in 2009, New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis– who’s more than well known for expressing her distaste for the lack of progress in Hollywood films for and about women—wrote about the plethora of promising female directors who were not being recognized. In 2012, I wrote an arts journalism piece about the Cannes Film Festival that year and how the lack of women directors in competition to win the Palme d’Or caused one of Europe’s most glamorous cinematic events to come under scrutiny for sexism. NPR’s Linda Holmes, in 2013, wrote that Hollywood has “entirely devoted itself to telling men’s stories,” and just a few weeks ago in the beginning of May, Lily Rothman of TIME reported ‘more bad news about gender equality in Hollywood.’
That’s a flood of pieces lamenting the lack of women on both sides of the camera, and sadly, these routinely printed ‘Women in Hollywood’ stories will continue to bombard readers with the same (and tired) beat of maybe there should be some more women without truly ever getting to the heart of the matter. Like the major studios and the Director’s Guild who have stayed busy for the last thirty years paying lip service to the world’s need for more women directors, it really is, all in the end, just talk talk and more talk—but no real action.
It seems that the trend will remain once again the same this summer. If you are looking to find a wide release film about women in June, it’s going to be quite the struggle, as only one movie with a female protagonist will be opening. Even art house and indie theatres won’t feature much for and about women in the next couple of weeks, offering only a scarcity of films that include Gillian Robespierre’s debut, Obvious Child. What’s more is that only one of this summer’s upcoming studio movies was even co-directed by a woman—that being Jupiter Ascending from the Wachowskis, which was, until just this afternoon, set to be released in mid July. Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. has abruptly bumped the sci-fi epic to a February 2015 debut because it supposedly still needs “more special effects work.”
So what does this means for us women? One might think that when in recent years when a white woman and a black man have both attracted unprecedented voting numbers when running for President, Hollywood might be on the verge of changing its tune. Yet the film industry, unlike other sectors such as politics– which have continued to make dramatic strides towards gender parity– seems to had, at least historically, headed straight from male domination to post-feminism without ever stopping to enjoy a true feminist age.
The problem is not that there is a dearth of women vying for the chance to shine in the industry– it’s that they (we) are not being given that chance. There is a profound lack of opportunities for women to direct studio features in general, as indicated by this year’s short list of summer tentpoles. It’s time for the entertainment industry to play catch up and even the playing field for women. It’s time to change the current conversation for and about women in film. It’s time for the movie industry to stop failing women. Until serious changes begin to be made, nothing really is ever going to change.