Female Ghostbusters, Female Superheroes, & Hollywood’s Push-Back On Women

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First up, two things: we LOATHE saying “female” Ghostbusters (or female anything that isn’t actually gender specific) but in this case it is just a nod to the fact that a previously all-male cast is now all-female. Second, we realize the title seems contradictory, mentioning female Ghostbusters & superheroes then saying Hollywood is still sexist, but it is true, and that’s what this article is about.

How is it that in a day and age where for two years in a row a female-led movie is the biggest earning film at the biggest box office in the world (‘The Hunger Games’ both years, FYI), there are still attitudes existing which say “women don’t sell” or God forbid “women aren’t funny“?

To us, we see it as an embarrassment to the people against progress, rather than a reflection on talented women in the entertainment industry in any way.

When the first all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ cast was announced as Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, as expected there were haters voicing their (shall we be so bold to say unwanted?) opinions online in droves.

Thankfully, there were many who hailed the move, including original cast member Dan Akroyd who said: “The Aykroyd family is delighted by this inheritance of the ‘Ghostbusters’ torch by these most magnificent women in comedy. My great grandfather, Dr. Sam Aykroyd, the original Ghostbuster, was a man who empowered women in his day, and this is a beautiful development in the legacy of our family business.”

It was a clever move on behalf of director Paul Feig, because it shows there are people in Hollywood catching onto the fact that character roles do not have to be gender specific, and the more open writers and studios are to toying with the idea of them also being female, the more we start to see diverse representations on screen. Why stop at female? This trend could assure different ethnicities are also shown.

With the rise of many superhero films and TV shows based on comic books being released, the ratio of male to female heroes has been troubling for many. But with news of a Wonder Woman movie being released in 2017, as well as the ‘AKA Jessica Jones‘ and ‘Supergirl‘ series being slated for 2015, it seems there is an upward trend happening with these characters, right?

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Unfortunately not fast enough for filmmaker Joss Whedon. He says Marvel should be leading the way on creating more female-branded superhero properties, and they aren’t doing a good enough job.

“It’s a phenomenon in the industry that we call ‘stupid people’,” Whedon said. “There is genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny that goes on. You hear ‘Oh, [female superheroes] don’t work because of these two bad ones that were made eight years ago’, there’s always an excuse,” he told DigitalSpy.

He went on to say Marvel is better positioned than most studios to make a grand statement by producing a female-led superhero movie, and points to the aforementioned ‘Hunger Games’ as a prime example of how popular it can be.

“‘Hunger Games’ is a different structure and aesthetic to a certain extent, but these narratives where people are bigger than life and they’re in these terrible, heightened circumstances, it’s all part of the same genre,” he said.

Speaking of the ‘Hunger Games’ franchise, producer Nina Jacobson wrote a guest column for Variety as part of their ‘Broken Hollywood’ series addressing the issues of disparity in Hollywood, and said two main points: 1) that there is a lack of opportunity out there for young people which results in 2) a shortage of fresh blood coming into Hollywood on a regular basis changing it up.

“If you want the industry to be more diverse, you can’t sit on your laurels. The people who come to you will likely be people of privilege who know somebody. You want to bring in fresh faces and let the cream rise to the top. The people who make movies should be as diverse as the people who watch them,’ she wrote mainly addressing people in decision-making positions in the industry.

She also makes special mention of the “women “problem and how it ties in with with Joss Whedon’s issue about female superheroes.

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“If people are going to give opportunities to those who remind them of themselves, and the majority who work in Hollywood are white men, then the majority of opportunities go to white men. In order to have critical mass, you have to push harder and get out of your comfort zone. “Boys don’t identify with a female protagonist” is a common conventional wisdom. It’s just not true,” she said, and we couldn’t agree more.

“We see that with the superhero syndrome. Look how long it’s taken to get “Wonder Women” off the ground. A lot of these stories come from a previous era where there are fewer female protagonists. Because we’re in a business that values pre-existing titles, we get stuck in a backward loop.”

Some of her solutions include more internships and training programs being initiated by the studios that groom up and coming filmmakers and get them into the network of the studio system at an early stage. Nina also recommends studios get out of their comfort zones by going to high schools and telling high school students that they need their talent. We wanna venture out and say perhaps the studios haven’t yet done that because perhaps they don’t know yet how much they need fresh blood?

But it isn’t just the Joss Whedons and Nina Jacobsons that have opinions and are keenly aware of what goes on behind closed doors in Tinseltown. Many actresses have been speaking out in droves using acceptance speeches during this year’s awards season as a prime opportunity to not just mention the problem, but give their solutions to show how easy it really is.

Viola Davis gave a brilliant speech at the SAG awards after her win for ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ saying how important representation is for young girls.

“I think we want to see ourselves. We want to be inspired by that. We don’t want to keep seeing these fictionalized images of women and just kind of feel bad about ourselves, really, at the end of the day. I sometimes want the fantasy, but more often than not, I want to see the reality. I want to feel less alone when I look at TV and film and theater.”

‘Boardwalk Empire’ star Gretchen Mol moaned about how frustrating it is to often see only one female character for every four males.

“I think everybody professes to be trying to hire more female directors and hopefully the verbalizing of that is going to make it happen. We have to make people aware that it’s an issue.”

GretchenMol-Boardwalk-Empire‘Birdman’ actress Andrea Riseborough said it’s important to have women in every capacity of the industry including writers, producers, grips etc.”It’s an educational thing. We need to encourage women to step behind the camera and give them opportunities to learn.”

‘Orange Is The New Black’ star Lauren Lapkus who won a SAG award with the rest of the cast for Best Ensemble Cast said the Bechdel Test should be a standard in the film industry.

“I do a lot of comedy and it’s been an age old question, ‘Are women funny?’ And of course women are funny. There are plenty of unfunny men so why aren’t we talking about that? It shouldn’t even be a conversation.”

SAG award winner Uzo Aduba from OITNB praised platforms like Netflix who produced her show and allowed a showrunner like Jenji Kohan to tell a specifically women-centric story that appeals to both men and women.

“I think it’s a conversation that needs to continue a dialogue on how to reach that and really be fearless in our attack to put real women onscreen.”Identifying the problem has been done. Over and over again. It is time to start implementing these wonderful solutions that are now being talked about on a regular basis. 2015 could be a game-changer for Hollywood if news coming out of the awards season is anything to go by.

The more these industry folk speak up and listen to the voice of the audience, as well as take notice of the box office numbers especially when it comes to a film that isn’t about a white, male protagonist, we might start to see not just an industry shift, but a cultural one, and that’s what is going to hold more weight when it comes to the representation of women and minorities on screen.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: 'Ghostbusters' Dir. Paul Feig Feels Guilty About The Lack Of Female Directors In Hollywood

  2. Pingback: Actress Jane Lynch On Defying Hollywood's Default Gender Roles & The On-Screen LGBTQ Revolution - GirlTalkHQ

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