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Dept. Of The Obvious: The Film Biz Has No Gender Equality
By Ted Hope
That lack of gender equality in the film business has been clear for so long. A lot has been written about it, and a lot more shall. Like so much, it is a problem for everyone, not just whom it effects most. It is all one world after all.
For a long time, white people did not accept that racial discrimination was their issue. For a long time, heterosexuals preferred not to recognize that same sex marriage was a civil rights issue. The majority stands so deep in the center of things that they often can’t see where they truly are. But the lack of gender equality in the film business is hard to ignore (Yes, there are many other issues that we shouldn’t overlook either, but I am starting here).
Sure, as Sundance has demonstrated, it gets better; and it is much better in Indieland for women directors than in Hollywood. But it still sucks. This year, just like last year, the Oscars were a demonstration of the Old White Male problem. The Academy’s membership is 77% male after all. This year, unlike any year before that I can remember, the Oscars were a demonstration of outright misogyny.
And we all suffer in the process, significantly. We are not enjoying a culture, an art form, an entertainment form truly representative of the world we live in. We are missing perspective and the best work may never get made, or seen. And many are missing the opportunity to demonstrate that they can do it better. It make work for some; it may never work for all, but it certainly can work a hell of a lot better than it does now.
Bloomberg Busisnessweek recently ran an article on “Why Women In Hollywood Can’t Get Film Financing” (featuring one of those great info graphics). The Nation just ran “Sundance, The Oscars, And The Decline Of Film Criticism — Not Just A Lady Problem ” on how much harder it is for women directors to get a full, thoughtful review of their films. Last fall I participated in a roundtable Op-Ed discussion for the NY Times on how women can gain influence in Hollywood.
Is it just a matter of encouraging and supporting women directors? There’s certainly not a shortage thereof (here’s just one list). There are many great screening series out there to engage with or to model off of. Is it just making us all aware of the reality, the challenges, and then advocating more fully? There are many great websites already doing this. Should the Bechdel Test be required for greenlight (as many directors would not be able to get their movies made if they were)? Or do we need something more akin to a bus boycott? Should we stop making movies until things get better? Should we stop going to the movies until things get better? Should we boycott shows after they have been significantly biased or ignorant.
The challenges within the creative classes to not promote something because something is or not from a particular sector of society is large. We want our culture to be a meritocracy — and we like to think it is even when it clearly is not. We always want what we deem “best” but bias always perpetuates the status quo. No one wants to ghettoize any form of creativity. Sorting work by who makes it or even by what budget it is made at distorts, yet sometimes that becomes necessary in order to make sure a voice is heard.
But the point is that the gender bias, like racial bias and age bias, is a serious problem in the film business and we can’t just sit and watch. We have to act. But what to do? Share some ideas and let’s move this forward.
I can say one thing now though, until the Academy approaches equal gender representation in it’s membership, I am only going to nominate women to join the producer ranks. My last few noms have been women anyway, and that was just because I thought my noms were the best choices (even if they did not get in).