How Directing ‘House Of Cards’ Made Robin Wright Recognize Hollywood’s Gender Problem

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She plays one of the iciest, calculating and dangerous characters on TV, but actress Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood on ‘House of Cards’ couldn’t be further from who this bombshell is in real life. Although they may share one similarity, they are extremely sharp and nothing gets past their dominant gaze.

The Golden Globe winner recently spoke to the Evening Standard in the UK about everything from feminism, to directing, equal pay in Hollywood and why we need a gender equality revolution.

While she may be enjoying phenomenal success playing the First Lady, Robin recognizes the film and TV industry in Hollywood has an inherent gender problem, yet is quick to point out that it’s not as if women are reluctant to show their merit.

“It is a man’s world. Most industries are a man’s world. But when you break it down… it’s women [who do the work]. But they don’t necessarily get the credit,” she said.

One of the main problems is the discrepancy in pay, which isn’t just a Hollywood problem, its a world problem. Specifically talking about how it affects women in the industry, Robin says paying women significantly less than men creates a snowball effect that allows for less great characters and opportunities for actresses.

“If you walk away from a role, there is always going to be someone else who will take it, because they are making a 16th of what you make. And they are like: ‘Hell, if you’re turning that down, you are biting the hand that feeds’,” she said. It’s a problem that would be fixed if women were paid equally.

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So it’s safe to say this boss lady is a feminist, but not in the way some may think. In order to achieve equality, she believes its about acknowledging our differences as men and women and being OK with admitting the other is better at certain things.

“I do believe in feminism, yes. But that is not to deny the biological differences. They [men] are stronger in some ways, we are stronger in some ways. We have better tactical talents than they do in some ways, and they [have better ones] in others, and that is why we are a great balance.”

Robin says it was when she started directing episodes of the hit Netflix series that made her realize just how pervasive and real the gender problem is. She has directed three episodes so far and this year will be directing four. The decision to direct went through the usual rounds of doubting that many women can identify when it comes to stepping out of our comfort zone in an area that is male-dominated.

“It was in the back of my head: one day. But then you think…’Yeah, I want to, but I could never…’ And that’s just fear. And a lot of that, I think, was being a female in this industry,” she admitted.

If the statistics are anything to go by, it’s no wonder she had that fear. In the past 5 years less than 5% of feature films released by a major studio were directed by women. There has only ever been 2 female Best Director winners and only 4 female nominees in the entire history of the Film Academy. This problem isn’t just ideological, it’s very real and very wrong.

In May the ACLU launched a major investigation, the first of its kind, into the alleged discriminatory hiring practices of female directors by the major Hollywood studios. The problem is now starting to become not just an industry insider issue, but a public one that audiences are all too aware of, which is a good thing!

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One of the reasons Robin gives for women not having these opportunities, is the way we are taught to see ourselves compared to men.

“I think we are programmed — well, I was; I am not going to speak for the whole gender. I was programmed into thinking: ‘I am going to be lesser; they [men] are going to think that I am lesser’,” she said.

This is why we need more female directors, to show other young women coming up through the ranks with ambitions to be the next Sofia Coppola or Ava DuVernay that it is possible and gender should not be an issue.

Aside from her directing ambitions, Robin is not interested in playing one-dimensional characters. It is that same argument about needing more complex female protagonists in Hollywood in order to push women away from the sidelines and into the realm where they are driving box office sales for their performances and characters, not appearance.

“If a great role comes along that is exciting and has some substance, or is far outside the box for me, I’ll definitely take it. But to play the pained wife again? I’m done,” she said.

She’s not the first to talk about the need for more interesting roles. British actress Emma Thompson said it doesn’t make sense that women as they get older get less and less interesting roles, where as men get the opposite.

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“I don’t see where age has to come into it – it’s been made to entertain everybody in the groups that we’re supposed to be in, which is a selection of ages. The fact is that the film industry has tried to separate us into groups, and it’s a mistake culturally, artistically and economically,” said Emma.

Another great Brit, Dame Helen Mirren put it in another way:

It’s ridiculous. And ’twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying. F***ing outrageous!”

We could go on and on about the examples of how age is seen as a “problem” for women in Hollywood and not for men, but you get the idea. Thankfully it is changing and that is due to more awareness, more female writers, producers and directors, and audiences showing Hollywood execs that films featuring complex female leads of all ages, races, and sizes are what they want to see.

Away from Hollywood, Robin advocates for women around the world in a very different way. She raises money for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women because of its high sexual violence rate due to political instability.

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After watching a documentary called ‘The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo‘ she set up a sleepwear company called Pour Les Femmes, which donates its profits to organizations providing medical, social and legal aid to women in the region. Robin has been visiting the country for the past 11 years, a little known fact next to her acting career.

“Minerals that are coming out of the Congo are in every single gadget that we purchase, every day, and through them we are perpetuating war and rape — I felt our responsibility as consumers to bring awareness to this crisis. Whatever it is, for the betterment of women’s lives, that’s what we intend to support,” she told the Evening Standard about her charity.

We couldn’t love Robin Wright anymore! We know the media loves to talk about her dating life, whether she gets botox or not and focus only on her amazing ‘House of Cards’ wardrobe, but there is so much to this incredible woman than popular media would have you believe. We’re so glad she is speaking up about gender equality in Hollywood and hope as more and more female voices get added to this discussion, we start to see more change happening.

If you are interested in learning more about Robin’s work in the Congo, hear what she had to say at the recent Women in the World Summit in New York where she shared a stage with United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power talking about the need to raise awareness about the plight of women around the world:


 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Mila Kunis Refuses To Stand By While Hollywood Continues To Undervalue The Work Of Women - GirlTalkHQ

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