Frances McDormand got right to the nub of it with her acceptance words last night at the Oscars in Los Angeles. Asking every woman who had been nominated for an Oscar to stand up and then saying to the rest of the audience… look, women have their own stories, give us the finance to make them!
Sexual harassment is but a symptom of the core problem in the film industry which McDormand exposed last night. Power and money behind the scenes determine the movies, both in what is made and how it is made and who is in them. And this background picture is very male. The concentration of this power in the hands of men has resulted in the abuse, exploitation and arguably over sexualisation and stereotyping of women in film. This is the #timesup story now. Women need to make their own movies, tell their own tales. A recent study conducted by San Diego State University, looked at the top 250 films at the US box office in 2017 and found that women make up only 11% of the directors. This has risen from a mere 7% in 2016. And 83% of all films had no female writers at all. For all its liberal polish Hollywood is still back in the dark ages when it comes to women’s equality.
Perhaps uniquely the film industry has the ability to contribute to ideology in a way few other industries can. What we see on screen not only mirrors but shapes what we see in society. It is almost always men’s standpoint we see when we go to the cinema no matter what gender the actors on the screen. Only one woman director, Kathryn Bigelow has ever won an Oscar (The Hurt Locker). Greta Gerwig got the fifth ever Oscar nomination to a female director this year for Ladybird (in the award’s 90 year history). Actresses with enough clout are now producing their own films and TV series as they find the choice of parts limited and/or stereotyped. Recent female led productions like Big Little Lies, produced by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon and Margot Robbie’s I Tonya among others are telling stories through women’s eyes… The celluloid ceiling is now being challenged and it is high time.
Further interesting statistics can be found here.