February 20, 2008

Why Isn't This a Bigger Issue?

For those of you who are familiar with the blog, you know that I am constantly harping on the lack of roles for women in Hollywood. Let's face it women are missing not only from the big mainstream big budget films (unless you are the young girlfriend who likes to scream in peril) as well as smaller movies that get the most recognition this time of year in anticipation of the Oscars.

There have been a couple of articles this season about how the top Oscar nominees (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood) are devoid of women except in minor roles (No Country).

The Telegraph had a great piece on this over last weekend. My question is, why don't we think this is a problem? There are so many good lines in the piece that I've wound up copying most of it.

Casting your eyes over this year's roster of film award contenders, you'd be forgiven for wondering why women, more than ever, have been relegated to the margins. The stories Hollywood wanted to tell last year were about fathers and sons, the American west, and machismo run amok.

Where are this year's The Queen, Erin Brockovich, Far From Heaven, The Hours? Even this year's Chicago? Oscar-watchers can only point to the best picture nominees Atonement and Juno as examples of female-led cinema, and neither of these will quite do.

The marginalisation pattern rears its head again in best supporting actress. Ruby Dee gets nominated for a single scene slapping Denzel Washington in the entirely phallocentric American Gangster. Blanchett is in for playing a man - but more on that in a minute. And Tilda Swinton, superb in Michael Clayton, makes a virtue of being the only gal in her own otherwise male-dominated ensemble. Her performance as the morally decentred opposition lawyer Karen Crowder is a brilliant reproach to a frankly wretched part: the role is tinged with misogyny, but Swinton makes Karen, with all her neurosis and terror, seem like the stricken victim of a man's world.

It does seem that Hollywood has been overwhelmingly working out maleness issues, rather than feminine ones - whether it's rampant capitalism (There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton) or essays on violence (No Country For Old Men, Jesse James) or paeans to male solitude (Into the Wild).

Even in traditionally female-targeted genres, such as the romantic comedy, there has been a shift in focus: the rise of producer-director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad) has seen date movies go out of their way to attract a more male demographic. Noticeably, women in Apatow's films don't get to have much fun - they're dealing with the responsibilities of childbirth while the men are off getting wasted.
I'm also tired of women getting pegged only as people interested in watching romantic comedies. Women are way more diverse than that.

I don't deplore this as an ongoing trend so much as call attention to it as a curious blip.

I deplore it and believe it is an ongoing trend and not a curious blip!

But why is Hollywood so scared of women's stories right now? Even a Devil Wears Prada has its place, but we didn't get one last year. We had to console ourselves with Hairspray.

Really, what is so scary about women?

The odds so often seem stacked against women's pictures at the multiplexes, not to mention the careers of any number of female directors, who manage to have one breakout success (Boys Don't Cry, Girlfight, Monster) and then struggle for years to get their next film funded.

This guy gets it. How come the powers in Hollywood don't?

Full Story:Why Is Hollywood Going for Bloke?