The Hollywood Reporter might have screwed up with its all-white cover featuring the year’s most Oscar-buzzed actresses, but the New York Times Magazine‘s richly reported cover feature on gender in Hollywood, by Maureen Dowd, is better and broader in its inclusiveness. Not only that, but Dowd got such extensive, on-the-record interviews from many of Hollywood’s biggest players that her remarkable story,”The Women of Hollywood Speak Out,” can help us classify all the different ways sexism and other forms of discrimination take hold.
Here are five different manifestations of film industry sexism that crop up in the piece, illustrated by some of the choicest quotes Hollywood personalities gave to Dowd:
1. The memory problem. Women- (or POC-) driven flops are taken more seriously and can destroy or sideline careers, while at the same time studios have “amnesia” about hits that cater to women.
‘‘The world of movies is fascinating to me because everyone has amnesia all the time… Every time a female-driven project is made and succeeds, somehow it’s a fluke. Instead of just saying The Hunger Games is popular among young women, they say it only made money because Jennifer Lawrence was luminous and amazing. I mean, you go get yours, girl. But seriously, that’s ridiculous. There’s a very hungry audience of young women dying to see some movies. They came out for Titanic and Twilight, 14-year-old girls going back to see those movies every day. I find it fascinating that this audience is not being respected. In the absence of water, people drink sand. And that is sad. There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.” — Shonda Rhimes
2. There’s a code of silence around speaking out, which means that many high-powered women in the industry haven’t been able to make the changes that were expected of them.
‘‘I believe a lot of these women [studio executives] were like, ‘I’m here, I worked my ass off to get this job and I’m not gonna make hiring women directors my mission because then I’m going to get [expletive] fired. And I need to make a difference. This is how I can make a difference, by being the woman who has this job.’ It’s the metaphor of: You are on a raft, you got away from the sinking ship, are you gonna pull everyone onto the raft with you? What if that sinks your raft and you all die? That’s the sympathetic read. The nonsympathetic read is they want to impress their upper bosses and make money.’’ — Lena Dunham
3. Foreign distributors are even more sexist than American ones, and they balk at female-driven films.
“[Spy, with Melissa McCarthy] made 125 million oversea…We can’t get Spy released in Japan… Russia has tended to be resistant to female leads.’’ — Paul Feig
4. Misogynist stereotypes die hard onscreen…
“I’ve had male executives say that my lead character was unlikable because she slept with a lot of guys.’’ — Julie Taymor
“The No. 1 script motif I read is a woman chained to a wall. It’s almost de rigueur now. I look back nostalgically at slasher films. At least then, the girls were main characters in speaking roles.’’ — Karyn Kusama (director of Girlfight and Jennifer’s Body
5… and in the office.
“A man gets a standing ovation for crying because he’s so sensitive, but a woman is shamed.’’ — Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke
‘‘It’s kind of like the church… They don’t want us to be priests. They want us to be obedient nuns.’’ — Anjelica Huston