In 2010, Tina Fey accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She noted that she is only the third woman to have received the most prestigious award in comedy. Instead of celebrating that fact, she took issue with it and made a hopeful proclamation on the future of this industry:
“I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things.”
Before we stop counting, we must start achieving more. Tina understood that. Kathryn Bigelow surely understands that as the only female director to win a best director Oscar. Acclaimed actress Jessica Chastain definitely understands that, remarking during this years Cannes Film Festival that the lack of female filmmakers has lead to a ‘disturbing’ portrayal of women on screen.
Yet despite the continuation of an ACLU investigation into industry hiring practices and a record low number of women to direct drama pilots in 2017, Hollywood is very good at patting itself on the back for smalls steps forward.
Wonder Woman, directed by critically acclaimed female helmer Patty Jenkins has been a smash success for Warner Bros. and is projected to earn at least $300m domestically. It has been more successful in its second weekend box office haul than both previous DCEU movies, and Suicide Squad. Hollywood is doing laps around its success and patting itself on the back for its feminism.
Yet, Jenkins had to fight against studio pressure to keep what is arguably the most iconic and feminist moment of the film– Wonder Woman’s venture into No Man’s Land. She also had to overcome a lack of publicity and advertising compared to the studios other DCEU films– the film only gained more of a P&A budget after its initial success and has largely gained cultural sensation status through word of mouth.
While the industry continues to loudly proclaim itself feminist for celebrating the success of Wonder Woman, it continues to backslide into old habits. Since WW, I have opened Deadline every day to read about white men with underwhelming resumes attached to studio projects. I read about white men going from epic box office bombs right onto attachments for new projects (the same forgiveness is a luxury rarely afforded to female directors). I have read only one article about a female director attachment, to a small indie thriller.
Film critic Maureen Ryan wrote about this tendency for the industry to backslide on diversity for Variety a few weeks ago— a day before the bow of Wonder Woman. Perhaps it was prophetic, but more likely it is due to the feelings of ‘been there, seen this before.’ Ryan noted regarding the slew of diverse shows recently canceled:
“Hollywood is way too quick to pat itself on the back for the smallest and most overdue steps forward when it comes to diversity, inclusion and representation — and the industry is far, far too quick to let the backsliding begin.”
The backsliding has already begun. In the case of Wonder Woman, as Yogi Berra would say “it’s deja vu all over again!”
Seeing such a huge turn out of women -and men!- for a femal-led and helmed superhero film is hardly surprising to women. What’s also not surprising to women is the understanding that female stars can carry a blockbuster film to success and that there are many talented women directors working, and deserving of the same chance at success.
The only people ever surprised by this are the male executives and predominantly male industry players reluctant to give women a chance in the first place. Yet these same studio executives and insiders are the first to celebrate and count women’s success as evidence that the industry is improving its diversity initiatives. Except it has hardly made a dent in the problem. Worse, the industry has -again- merely used a single feminist/diversity success as a red herring while it continues to fall back into old habits (hire the same white men & men just like them).
This isn’t the time to backslide. It’s the time once and for all to use the success of Jenkins and Wonder Woman to open doors for women of all backgrounds to write, direct, produce and star in major films. It’s time to hire more women below the line. It’s time for men to be more than allies just in words and use their power to actually mentor, support and hire women– not just men like them.
– Women can direct just as well as men.
– Women can star in successful blockbusters.
– Films with and by women make money.
– Women can write just as well as men.
– Women can produce just as effectively as men.
– Women can write and perform comedy just as well as men.
– Women can work in any position in this industry just as well as men.
Like Tina Fey, I’m tired of counting. So lets cut the the BS– talk is cheap. Action is what matters. It’s time to tackle this diversity problem once and for all. There are no excuses left!