The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) announced last week that they have sent letters to federal and state agencies asking them to investigate the lack of female directors in Hollywood as a violation of civil rights, and they’ve already received incredible support.
Jennifer Siebal Newson, president and founder of the Representation Project and director of 2011 documentary ‘Miss Representation’, had this to say about the matter:
“The ACLU called Hollywood’s hiring practices ’overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias’ and I couldn’t agree more,” she told MTV News. “We are not investing in women storytellers, nor giving them a fair shot to excel. We must commit to equalizing the playing field for women in Hollywood.” She added that she is hopeful for change, but she predicts ‘growing pains’
“In general, Hollywood’s having a very hard time catching up with the modern world,” agreed director Paul Feig. “I think it’s a crime that there’s not more women behind the camera directing. At my company we’re just starting to produce movies and we’re really trying to change that on our own… it just takes a long time for old prejudices to work their way through the system. There haven’t been enough opportunities for women directors, and so then they say, ’well there’s not enough.’ Well yeah, there’s not enough because you’ve got to start somewhere.”
The University of Southern California found that only 1.9% of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014 were directed by women. Furthermore, there has only ever been 1 female Oscar winner for directing – only 3 more have ever been nominated – so clearly there aren’t many to choose from, but why might this be? Actress Rose Byrne suggests that there must be discrimination occurring.
“It has to be discrimination. If women are half the population, over half, it’s plain and simple discrimination. So why wouldn’t it be investigated like any discrimination?” she said to Mtv News on the set of Paul Feig’s new comedy ‘Spy’. The movie’s star Melissa McCarthy expressed that she wanted more diverse backgrounds for directors in general, saying “You don’t want every story being told from the same point of view. So just for better storytelling, I’m like, ’yes, please, bring some more ladies on.’”
It’s not really a secret that prejudice still exists in Hollywood and on the sets of many other tv and film projects. There’s even a Tumblr by the name of ‘shit-people-say-to-women-directors’ just to highlight these moments – although this is an anonymous open blog so take everything you read with a grain of salt.
Nevertheless it hasn’t entirely been proven that discrimination is the reason yet, as likely as it may be. As much as I support the idea of hiring more women directors, I can’t help but focus on something comedian Miranda Hart said during her interview on the set of Spy. “Tokenism, y’know, I’m not a fan of that. There’s been a real thing in the UK about ‘we must have a woman on panel shows’ and its like well, not because she’s a woman. I don’t want to be a woman I want to be a comedian.” With the media buzz now surrounding the actions took by the ACLU, will we now see Hollywood scrambling to shoehorn tons of female directors and leads into crummy half-baked story lines for the sole-purpose of making themselves look good? I suppose we can only wait and see. Though while we are waiting, let’s not forget the long list of independent films backing women directors. To all young women aspiring to follow this path, just remember that the list of examples to follow may be small, but its not non-existent, and it’s certainly not unremarkable. If you never give up pursuing your dream you can make that list grow, helping encourage more down the road.