Movies tend to really suck at depicting women. They suck so bad that pretty much every movie you can currently go see in the theater is fantasy/escapism — not because they're about futuristic post apocalyptic hellscapes or Men of Steel, but because they all exist in worlds where women don't seem to exist. Wives exist. Girlfriends exist, but women with well rounded lives who serve purposes beyond propping up male protagonists have all but disappeared.
This is obviously a major problem, but more problematic still is that it's starting to seem like nothing can be done about it.
NPR's Linda Holmes recently did some research on the gender discrepancies of the films showing in cinemas in her area (Washington, D.C.) this Friday. What she found was tremendously discouraging.
In At The Movies, The Women Are Gone, Holmes writes:
Of those 617 showings, 561 of them — 90 percent — are stories about men or groups of men, where women play supporting roles or fill out ensembles primarily focused on men. The movies making up those 561 showings: Man Of Steel (143), This Is The End (77), The Internship (52), The Purge (49), After Earth (29), Now You See Me (56), Fast & Furious6 (44),The Hangover Part III (16), Star Trek Into Darkness (34), The Great Gatsby (16), Iron Man 3 (18), Mud (9), The Company You Keep (4), Kings Of Summer (9), and 42 (5).
Thirty-one are showings of movies about balanced pairings or ensembles of men and women: Before Midnight (26), Shadow Dancer (4), and Wish You Were Here (1).
Twenty-five are showings of movies about women or girls: The East (8), Fill The Void (4), Frances Ha (9), and What Maisie Knew (4).
Of the seven movies about women or balanced groups, only one — the Israeli film Fill The Void — is directed by a woman, Rama Burshtein. That's also the only one that isn't about a well-off white American. (Well, Celine in Before Midnight is well-off, white and French, but she's been living in the U.S.)
And that's for a major metropolitan area that has art house cinemas and indie film forums. As she points out, the situation is even more desperate in places where moviegoers' choices are limited to multiplexes.
"I want to stress this again," she writes. "In many, many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie in the theater and see a current movie about a woman — any story about any woman that isn't a documentary or a cartoon — you can't. You cannot. There are not any. You cannot take yourself to one, take your friend to one, take your daughter to one."
Of all the women-centric films, Francis Ha is the most widely circulated...and it's playing on only 213 screens nationwide. Compare that to The Internship which is playing on 3,399 screens across the country.
The usual defense about this crazy gender imbalance is that people won't pay money to see movies about women, but this has been proven time and time again to be untrue. People love to watch movies about women and will fork over big bucks to do it. Remember, Bridesmaids didn't flop and neither did Brave, The Hunger Games, or Beasts of the Southern Wild. It seems stupid to have to remind the big studios of this seeing as it's their fucking job to know what sells and yet when it comes to female centric movies, studio execs all seem to have a major memory lapse. And they're not just failing us. They're failing capitalism!
So what can be done?
Holmes seems ready to throw her hands up (and not in the fun concert way):
They put up Bridesmaids, we went. They put up Pitch Perfect, we went. They put up The Devil Wears Prada, which was in two-thousand-meryl-streeping-oh-six, and we went (and by "we," I do not just mean women; I mean we, the humans), and all of it has led right here, right to this place. Right to the land of zippedy-doo-dah. You can apparently make an endless collection of high-priced action flops and everybody says "win some, lose some" and nobody decides that They Are Poison, but it feels like every "surprise success" about women is an anomaly and every failure is an abject lesson about how we really ought to just leave it all to The Rock.
Her attitude is understandable. The problem isn't that not enough women make movies. Plenty of women make movies. The problem isn't that people won't pay to see movies about women because people will pay money to see movies about women. The problem is that we're being senselessly vag-blocked by the studios at almost every turn and Sofia Coppola can only do so much.
What we need is more rich people willing to take risks on things that aren't actually risks. Either that or we all need to become studio bigwigs in our own right. Whichever it is, something needs to be done.
At the Movies, The Women Are Gone [Monkey See]