This One Tweet Showcases How Award Shows Are Still Undervaluing Women In Film
Last year it was #OscarsSoWhite. This year, will it be #OscarsSoMale? It's unclear if there will be enough movies by people of color nominated at this year's Oscars to combat #OscarsSoWhite, but one thing is more clear: this year, female representation at the Oscars and other film awards is looking bleak. Judging from the Golden Globes nominations, the filmmakers recognized will be predominantly male, and one tweet captures how award shows are still undervaluing women filmmakers.
While the Golden Globes do seem to showcase quite a few female stories — Mad Max, Joy, Carol, Trainwreck, and Room among them — female filmmakers and directors are decidedly MIA at this year's round of nominees (as they have been in past years). In 2015, all five directors nominated for Oscars were male, and this year, the Golden Globes followed that trend, with not a single female name gracing the "Best Director" category, according to Elle. And although women were the writers behind many of the female stories up for awards, only 1 out of 5 nominees for the Golden Globes' Best Screenplay award this year is female.
2015 was a great year for female stories, and there were some stellar movies that revolved around them, including Brooklyn, Carol, Inside Out, and Room. But journalist Mark Harris hit the nail on the head when he tweeted about the underrepresentation of women among award nominees this season:
Movies in danger of getting under-Oscar-nominated: Brooklyn, Carol, Inside Out, Room What they share: Women Are we looking at #OscarsSoMale?— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) January 5, 2016
Blogger Kevin Dillon seconded that:
Let's get #OscarsSoMale trending, because in a year full of great films about women, it feels like a lot of undeserved snubs will happen— Kevin Dillon (@ETKevinsMind) January 5, 2016
Of course, the awards shows are representative of a deeper problem: Oscar audiences don't see many female directors nominated because, hey, there aren't actually that many to begin with (which says something about the industry specifically and about society generally). And why aren't there more female directors? In an interview with The New York Times, Lena Dunham said that female directors are stuck in a "dark loop." Women won't gain experience unless they're hired, but no one will hire them until they have experience, Dunham said. And according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film (CSWTF), in theatrically-released films in 2014, women made up only 13 percent of the films' directors.
Fortunately, the higher the more women directors out there, the more female representation there is in filmmaking. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, movies that have female directors tend to have a 50-50 split of female and male writers, whereas only 8 percent of films with male directors have female writers. Actually, having female directors increases the amount of female representation in cinematography, editing, and other areas of filmmaking in a movie, as well.
I can't help but think of Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, when thinking of the "dark loop." When faced with selecting representatives with his cabinet, he filled it with capable men and women in a 50-50 split, making it Canada's first gender-equal cabinet. When asked why, he said, "Because it's 2015." The film industry needs that same attitude to come from studios' hiring directors, which is an outlook Dunham says often doesn't exist, even when women are running those studios. As she told The New York Times:
I believe a lot of these women 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?
Another study by CSWTF found that only 12% of the top 100 films in 2014 had female protagonists — so the fact that quite a few films with female narratives made it onto the Golden Globes nominee list this year is impressive. But if the TV and film industry ever expect to see equality in gender representation, awards shows need to be part of that process.
How can the industry tackle underrepresentation in a top-down process? Awards shows can take a two-pronged approach: by making both voters and awards themselves more representative. In 2014, Oscar voters were 94 percent white and 76 percent men, and an average of 63 years old. Is that representative of moviegoers today? Of course not, and it makes no sense to have voters who are completely out of touch with the audiences in theaters. Holding a certain number of spots aside for women — in both voting and awards themselves — incentivizes the industry to leave behind its prehistoric ways.
If the awards hold that space for capable people who represent our diverse society, trust me, those capable people will come. And it's a change I think people are ready to see — because instead of seeing #OscarsSoMale become a thing this year, wouldn't it be awesome to celebrate a hashtag more along the lines of #OscarsSoDiverse?
Image: RALF HIRSCHBERGER/AFP/Getty Images