You may have noticed the numerous articles we post about the gender imbalance in Hollywood. Whether it be the industry’s reluctance to green light more female-driven stories (thankfully with the immense popularity of films like ‘The Hunger Games’ that is changing dramatically) or the huge disparity of jobs given to female directors, the bias is undeniable.
With the advent of the Sony leaks in 2014, the truth about female leads being paid less than male-costars finally became a solid truth rather than just some sort of arbitrary feminist speculation. In 2015 a very important investigation was launched, championed by the ACLU and EEOC, to investigate the alleged bias of Hollywood studios toward hiring female directors on major films.
An infographic looking at the number of women directing the biggest films over a period of 5 years showed found that the figure was an appalling 4.7%. What makes it even more appalling is how little this fact is known in mainstream media as well as in society, as if one woman finally winning an Oscar for Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow) makes all the complaining seem redundant. The lack of female representation in an equal manner both in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood is a BFD (big frickin’ deal). If the majority of stories we see are portrayed through and for the male gaze, what’s left for women and girls?
The answer is that we are forced to continue the cycle of two-dimensional, stereotype-ridden tropes and narrow story lines that do not give us the same ability to dream and visualize and identify with on-screen messages in the same way as men. In a recent interview with EW at a round table event in Hollywood, actress and producer Reese Witherspoon told the industry publication that the pressure put on female directors is both hypocritical and unfair.
“As a male director, if your first movie out of the gate is not very good, you’re definitely going to get a second movie and a third movie — now you have a reel,” the actress says. “If you’re a woman and you direct your first movie and it’s not very good, it’s terrifying because you might not work again, and we don’t get that second, third, fourth, and fifth chance to make it right. [Studios are] not plucking women from Sundance and saying, ‘Hey, direct Jurassic [World],” she said.
Reese knows all too well the gender bias that exists. While she has made a very successful career for herself, even winning an Oscar for Best Actress in 2010 for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in ‘Walk The Line’, she has admitted that the roles and stories being offered to her were limited compared to those being offered to men, so she launched her own production company and is now making the types of films she wants to star in and see more of.
In an effort to expose more people to this problem in Hollywood, the EPIX network recently premiered a 6-part docu-series titled ‘The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem‘ featuring a number of well-known industry names explaining why the gender problem needs to be addressed.
“Is it really 4%?” asks actress Toni Collette with a painful grimace.
“This beautiful creative industry has the worst report card of all industries,” exclaims director Catherine Hardwicke, whose personal experience of directing the first ‘Twilight’ movie and making it an international box office success, then being dumped off the sequel in favor of a male director has become part of the aforementioned ACLU investigation into the industry’s hiring practices toward women.
“Out of the 60 or so films that I’ve made, I can count the women directors on one hand,” states legendary actress Anjelica Huston.
It’s also about enriching audiences and exposing them to different perspectives on issues which makes the absence of female-driven films and stories more depressing.
“We have a real way of seeing the world that is not necessarily separate from men, but we have a point of view,” says British producer/director Mira Nair.
“Isn’t it going to be a richer, better experience in movies if we get to hear from other people?” asks award-winning and zeitgeist-infiltrating documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
But perhaps the most shocking statement comes from actress, writer and director Julie Delpy, who perfectly states why the lack of female directors is indeed a shame.
“The next Kubrick, in no one’s mind, is a woman. No one! No one believes the next Scorcese is a woman,” she said.
“Instead of having a million panels about it, let’s do something about it,” declared producer Christine Vachon in the intro video.
So EPIX took up the challenge, and armed with data from USC Annenberg professor Dr. Stacy Smith, who since 2005 has been assessing portrayals of males and females in popular media and has written numerous reports on this issue, they put together an informative series of videos that can help push the needle even further toward equality on this issue.
With well-known names such as Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, director Paul Feig, writer/creator Judd Apatow and actress/director Lake Bell, it is important we start to see action being taken on this issue, talk is not enough. Hollywood’s gender problem is no longer a theory or speculation, it is a very real frustrating topic for women and minorities who have been trying for so long to break down the “boys club” that has dominated the industry.
We have shared all the videos from the series in this blog post as we want as many people as possible to know about this, and also encourage women to become writers, producers, directors and creators and infiltrate the industry with their talent.