While I can't claim to be a feminist, only the deliberately ignorant would claim it's an easier world for women.
Women are constantly on the timer. Their motivations are questioned rigorously against their biology.
We sarcastically label them 'the better half', and yet women are so enthusiastically placed into simplistic bi-polar categories: reasonableness is 'soft', resilience, 'being a b**ch'.
I am a believer in equal pay for equal work, however. If someone is paid to lift heavy things, and they can lift more of those said heavy things, then their remuneration should reflect the difference. Gender should be irrelevant in either direction.
But it's not.
And what dismays me, truly, is the bald-faced disdain that women live with. Particularly, I am ashamed to say, in film.
In 2013, The Forbes’ list of Hollywood’s Highest-Paid Male Actors banked a collective $465 million, almost two and a half times more than what the top-paid Female Actors received.
It was less than ten years ago, 2007 in fact, that Warner Brothers head of production, Jeff Robinov, infamously declared “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead”.
Where does this kind of ignorance find its genesis?
It starts with pay, but goes much deeper. Somewhere darker, lurking in our unspoken biases.
“Movies that are female-driven do not travel,” said Krista Smith, West Coast editor of Vanity Fair, describing the broader sentiment in Hollywood. "There are almost no women who have sales value in multiple international territories, maybe with the exception of Sandra Bullock..."
'...there’s a wide-ranging perception in Hollywood that audiences — in the U.S. and abroad — simply don’t care for women in leading roles and that movies for and about men are more likely to have better cross-market appeal than movies about women.'
This is what we have come to. Where women, who make up more than half of the world's population, are so marginalised that their stories are not considered worthy of joining the cultural discourse on screen.
How did we fall so far?
Don't we all have mothers? Sisters? Daughters? Wives and girlfriends? Even female colleagues?
Could you look them in the eyes and say "your perspective doesn't matter"?
I doubt it. But this is the cultural landscape we inhabit.
Even more sadly, given their prominence, when the numbers are actually reviewed these biases are found to be also factually inaccurate.
This excellent article performs a detailed numerical analysis on films with significant female characters, and determines they perform as well, if not better than other films. I wasn't at all shocked. More troubling to me is the fact that someone felt this argument needed to be addressed in the first place. What does that say about us?
But that doesn't matter either. As much as the numbers support my case, it just shouldn't come down to algebra. Dollars cannot be given the reins to our cultural identity.
I am lucky to have many significant women in my life. I'm also recently a proud uncle and godfather.
My niece and goddaughter deserve better than this. They deserve to see a culture that respects the intrinsic value they add to the world. We all do, actually. For goodness sake, art is supposed to provide some insight into life! How can there be any insight through a myopic perspective?
“...women will go to a ‘guy’s movie’ more easily than guys will go to a ‘woman’s movie,’” said Michael Shamberg, who produced 'Pulp Fiction' (1994), 'Django Unchained' (2012) and 'Garden State' (2004).
It's all about dollars then. Bank activity drives the culture, regardless of how insidious it has become.
It's a good thing then, that 'Frozen', the Disney animated film with two female leads, just became the highest grossing animation of all time. It even overtook uber-masculine Batman in 'The Dark Knight Rises' and Robert Downey Jr in 'Iron Man 3', as the 5th highest grossing film of all time.
$1,245,064,674 reasons to start respecting women in our screen culture. I'm sure the Forbes list will look utterly different next year.
We have to rebuild the culture. For women. For ourselves.
For the nieces and goddaughters, waiting to inherit the world.
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