Hollywood’s Sexist Understanding of Feminism

How they got it Wrong

In the wake of the fourth wave of feminism and the Times Up movement, it has been a fantastic two years for women, especially in the workplace. Today, every single business organization is looking to hire minority staff. This has become extremely popular in the film industry, mostly due to the popularity and translucent nature of the business. Today, we are seeing a surge of diversity in directors of television and feature films. This was shown last year with Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman which was a “swiftly moving, convincing and legible — and often dazzling [film] to look at” and as of today, has made $412 million domestically. This success only helps minority directors secure jobs. Since Wonder Woman, there has been a huge increase in the number of female directors securing studio jobs, which is celebrated as it lowers the male to female ratio in Hollywood. But are these women the right people for the job?

Saorise Ronan (left) and Greta Gerwig on the set of ‘Lady Bird’

Within Hollywood, the number one criticism has been for more diverse directors. During every red carpet, actresses are demanding that there should be more directors, especially female directors. Hollywood even used one of last year’s most successful films Lady Bird, written and directed by 35 year-old Greta Gerwig, as an example. Lady Bird was loved by everyone in the film community and now Gerwig is currently directing her next project, a remake of Little Woman. Lady Bird currently has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and if a critic doesn’t like the film, they’re considered sexist because of Gerwig’s gender. But what if the critic isn’t sexist and simply didn’t like the film?

The issue isn’t that there is a lack of female directors in compsariosn to male directors (which Hollywood is trying to fix) or that female directors aren’t being given the chance to direct big studio moves. It’s that the jobs female directors are getting within the studio world all have one thing in common: all of the films are about women. For some reason, Hollywood has understood feminism as women telling stories only about women. Meaning that Hollywood producers (who are mostly men) think that in order for a film about a woman to be good, particularly an action movie, the film must be directed by a woman. If not, it will be unsuccessful and sexist. Producers have taken in the feminist movement by providing women more roles behind the camera, it just that these roles are only available in films that center around women, which is still sexist. It started with Jenkins’s Wonder Woman and now the trend is continuing as all major Hollywood studios are only hiring women to direct (action) movies about women.

Cathy Yan will direct DC’s ‘Birds of Prey’

This summer, Cate Shorthand was hired to direct the Black Widow movie for Disney while Cathy Yan will direct Warner Brother’s Birds of Prey, a movie that centers around Harley Quinn, Huntress, and Black Canary. All of whom are woman. Again, for Disney, Mulan by will be directed by Niki Caro, and A Wrinkle in Time was directed by Ava DuVernay. Currently, the remake of Charlie’s Angels is being directed by Elizabeth Banks for Sony Pictures. I can go on forever but I think you get the point.

The issue with all of these women is not that they’re bad directors. Most of them come from the world of independent cinema and have won awards for their films. So this is their opportunity to break into Hollywood studios, have money and support for their movies, and direct huge blockbusters. But my issue is that out of all of these directors mentioned, not a single one has actually directed an action movie before. These women are known for small coming-of-age films that are poetic and quiet. Which is the exact opposite of an action movie, especially a comic book action movie.

Kathryn Bigelow directing ‘The Hurt Locker’

I am not saying that these directors, particularly women directors, are bad. They’re professional and valued directors, they deserve to be where they are in their careers. But just because one is a woman doesn’t mean that they have or can only direct a film about a woman. DuVernay’s Selma and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are great examples of that. Both are films were critical and box office successes, with Bigelow winning an Oscar for best directing (the only woman to do so). But these films also have something else in common: they’re not about women. The Hurt Locker is about a bomb squad in the Iraq War and Selma is about the march from Selma to Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. Both films are fantastically well made films about the human condition in critical points of history.

The Hurt Locker and Selma are not about women, they’re about people. Bigelow and DuVernay didn’t get the job becuase they were women, but because they were the right person for the job.

Quentin Tarantino directing Uma Therman in ‘Kill Bill’

Also, if a film about a woman is directed by a man, it doesn’t mean the film will be bad or would have been better if the it was directed by a woman. There have been dozens of female heroines directed by men like Sarah Connor (The Terminator), Ellen Ripley (Alien), Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill), and Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road) that were brought to life by male directors.

No matter the gender or race, the best person for the job should get the job. It’s that simple. A woman can direct a movie about a man and a man can direct a movie about a woman. It shouldn’t matter if the director is a man or a woman or black or white. As long as their work is good and a proper fit, they should direct the film. That is real feminism.

1. Figures reported from Box Office Mojo. [https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=wonderwoman.htm]

2. Fleming, M. (2017). Ava DuVernay set to direct Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’; script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee. Deadline, Deadline, 23 February 2016.

3. Hornady, A. (2017). ‘Wonder Woman’ saves the day, in more ways than one. The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 May 2017.

4. Kit, B. (2018). ‘Black Widow’ movie finds director in Cate Shortland (exclusive). The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, 30 October 2018.

5. McIntosh, S. (2018). Mulan: Niki Caro to direct Disney’s live action remake. BBC News, BBC, 16 February 2018.

6. Mendelson, S.(2018). Cathy Yan to direct Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn/’Birds of Prey’ movie for DC films. Forbes, 17, April 2018.

7. Raup, J. (2018). Greta Gerwig to direct Little Women starring Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Saoirse Ronan, Timotheè Chalamet & more. The Film Stage,19 July 2018.

8.. Figures reported from Rotten Tomatoes. [https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lady_bird]

9. Verhoeven, B. (2015). Elizabeth Banks in talks to direct new ‘Charlie’s Angles’ film for sony. TheWrap, TheWrap, 15 September 2015.

I love storytelling. I love writing. Here I am. Also very much for hire laurenlamagna1@gmail.com https://letterboxd.com/laurenlamagna/