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Diablo Cody Says The Lack Of Women In Creative Positions In Hollywood Is "Deeply Depressing"

by Jen Vineyard
February 1, 2012 9:59 AM
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Diablo Cody
Diablo Cody is depressed about the Oscar nominations. Not just because her screenplay for "Young Adult" was snubbed -- she already has one statuette at home for "Juno" -- but more so because she wasn't the only woman overlooked this year. Only three were nominated as screenwriters -- Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig for "Bridesmaids," and the late Bridget O'Connor as co-writer of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" -- and none were nominated for Best Director. (Although a few films helmed by women scored nods in other categories: Agnieska Holland's "In Darkness" in Best Foreign Language Film, and Jennifer Yuh Nelson's "Kung Fu Panda 2" in Animated Film).

"I'm happy for Kristen and Annie," Cody told The Playlist, "but honestly, particularly in the director category, it's a little depressing. There were a few ladies nominated the year I was, but that's not the norm."

Despite all the attention given to Kathryn Bigelow's Best Director Oscar win for 2009's "The Hurt Locker," the number of female directors is actually going down. A recent report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film called The Celluloid Ceiling found that only five percent of 2011's highest-grossing movies were directed by women -- down from seven percent in 2010 and nine percent in 1998. Of the 250 highest-grossing films last year, only 14 percent were written by women, while 38 percent of the films employed one or no women in roles such as producer, director, writer, editor, or cinematographer. "There is inequality going on, and it's institutionalized, and it needs to stop," Cody said, adding that she used to blame women for their own lack of inclusion -- "maybe they weren't assertive enough, maybe they were too deferential" -- but since becoming both a mother and a director, she's started thinking differently. "It seems a lot of people in power are not comfortable with women writing or directing," she said. "They think it's incompatible with motherhood or some other responsibility, and that freaks me out. A lot of women are doing amazing things as producers and executive producers, but on the creative side? Not as much, and that's deeply depressing."

Whenever she has brought up the issue, Cody said, "I've been told, 'Be quiet and just do good work.' If I don't [stay quiet], that makes me look like I'm a shrill harpie. But conversely, if I am quiet and just doing good work on my own, then I'm the only one who benefits from that. I'm going to continue to be outspoken and explicitly feminist about this, and I wish more women would do the same."

And Cody is doing something about it. Along with her "Fempire" girls-club -- screenwriter friends Dana Fox ("What Happens in Vegas," "Couples Retreat"), Liz Meriwether ("No Strings Attached"), and Lorene Scafaria ("Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist," "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World") -- she's the co-chair of the Athena Film Festival, which showcases the work of women filmmakers, and starts in New York on February 9th. "I want other opportunities to be created for other women," she said. "If I'm having the greatest career ever, but shitty conditions still exist for other women, then that's not a solution."

As she begins pre-production in Louisiana on her untitled directorial debut (formerly referred to as "Lamb of God"), Cody's making a concerted effort to hire as many female crew members as possible for the film, which starts shooting interiors in March. "I'm not going to apply gender bias," she said. "If a guy is more qualified, I'll hire him, because I'm looking for the best person for the job."

When seeking advice from directors of her past films, Cody learned something useful from "Jennifer's Body" helmer Karyn Kusama -- who made her movie with a toddler in tow. "She told me that I need to be as firm as possible about getting home on time," Cody said. "I have to say, 'This is when the day ends.' And I'm doing that, but at the same time, it's making me more conscious of my femaleness. You don't hear male directors worrying about struggling to be a father at the same time, how to juggle family." Because they have wives to take care of their family business for them? She laughed, "I guess I need a wife!"

Cody said "Lamb of God" was discarded as a title because a metal band called Lamb of God has the name trademarked for all usage, and because the word "God" doesn't play well overseas. "I don't know what to call it yet, but I have to choose something," she said. "The subject matter is really rich, since it involves fate, beauty, insecurity, innocence, experience. I'm kind of overwhelmed!"

Depending on how overwhelmed she is during the entire shoot, Cody hasn't decided yet whether she'll continue directing. "I'm going to see if I like it," she laughed. "Maybe I'll do it again. I still don't think of myself as a career director, but I'm willing to give it a try."

The Athena Film Festival runs from Februay 9-12.

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  • c | February 8, 2012 3:05 AMReply

    Men are weak. I wish they never existed. Cody is right. Good for her for speaking up. Every industry is somewhat like this.

  • Maurice | February 1, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    I hate all of the movies in that little Fempire of hers but I thought Young Adult was pretty damn fantastic.

  • DK | February 1, 2012 3:52 PMReply

    More than Cody being snubbed, Charlize Theron was snubbed.

  • Kaiser | February 2, 2012 7:04 PM

    **does NOT equal

  • Kaiser | February 2, 2012 3:58 PM

    Brad, a physical transformation does equal a revelatory performance. Noomi Rapace was far better than Mara. And to say that she was "playing a character so beyond her depth compared to anything she had done before" well DUH. She had 2-3 film roles... 2 of them were absolutely forgettable and she had a small role in The Social Network. Way to drag in the most obvious and irrelevant point. I wouldn't compare Theron in Monster to Mara in Dragon Tattoo. Theron's performance in that film is one of the greatest Oscar winning performances in history.... Mara was good, not great or revelatory as you say. Swinton and Theron were absolutely robbed.

  • Brad | February 2, 2012 10:20 AM

    To all of the people hating on Rooney Mara, I would just like to say that no actress gave a braver more revaltory performance this year. She was better then all of the other women nominated in her category, and better then Theron and Swinton as well. She was playing a character so beyond her depth compared to anything she had done before. It was a transformation that few actresses would have actually been able to pull off. She completely made you forget about all of the other work she had done, and disappeared into the role. There has not been a female performance by an actress that impressive in my opinion since Theron herself in Monster.

  • Bec Kusy | February 1, 2012 3:58 PM

    For real. But that whole category is pretty embarrassing. Davis is alright but the rest of the nominees we won't remember a year from now. I'm sure Theron is better off not being nominated with a whole bunch of average performances. Interesting how Swinton and Theron give 2 of the best and darkest performances of the year, yet they are both snubbed.

  • OOGLE MONSTER | February 1, 2012 3:53 PM

    Theron was better than all of the nominees. TRUTH BOMB.

  • This is the song that never ends | February 1, 2012 3:52 PM

    Agreed. Theron deserved to be nominated over Glenn Close and Rooney Mara.

  • JD | February 1, 2012 12:37 PMReply

    One more reason to hate Diablo Cody: even though the industry has handed her one golden opportunity after another, she cries sexism whenever anything less than incredible happens to her. The industry is no more sexist than she is. Cody could have brought Young Adult to a female director, but she chose to let a man direct it. You know why? When she worked with a female director, the movie sucked. That's logical decision-making, not sexism. As for Young Adult, it's really just Greenberg with a female protagonist and a really obvious script. If Baumbach's film -- which is infinitely better and more original than Young Adult -- didn't get nominated for anything, why would YA?

  • zxcvb | February 3, 2012 4:48 AM

    You've got a point, there, JD.

    If Cody cares so much about closing the gender gap, why didn't she choose a female director for Young Adult? Instead she gave it to an established male director that she's already worked with...thus doing the exact same thing she (correctly) accuses studio execs of doing -- "playing it safe" at the expense of diversity.

  • KT | February 2, 2012 4:02 PM

    JD- Cody is one of the few writers who creates lead roles for women that are challenging, unconventional, and unique. Cody can cry foul all she wants... she has created three VERY memorable leading characters in Juno, Jennifer (even though Megan Fox ruined it... it was still a damn good premise), and Mavis Gary. She is doing something to correct the problem. I don't see many other writers creating such roles for women unless it's total disposable crap and then you will never hear about it. JD you're not sexist, you're just wrong.

  • JD | February 1, 2012 10:16 PM

    So let me get this straight, Shark: Diablo Cody can diagnose sexism wherever she sees fit with complete impunity, whether she's correct and/or doing anything to address the problem -- and if I disagree with her, I'm sexist too? Note: I wasn't saying anything about the general state of sexism in the film industry, except to say that Diablo Cody is guilty of the exact same thing she's complaining about.

  • J | February 1, 2012 10:03 PM

    Shark, you're wasting your time with these women haters.

  • shark | February 1, 2012 5:20 PM

    What the fuck am I even reading? JD, you're a douche. You're really going to argue women have equal opportunities to men in terms of directing films? Fuuuuck, how ignorant do you even have to be to argue that? Cody isn't saying she's had it super-difficult. She's fighting on behalf of other women that have found it impossible to break into the industry because a lot of (insane) people think women shouldn't direct films. You're a vile, sexist prick.

  • Jesse | February 1, 2012 4:01 PM

    I would have gone with Reitman if I were in that position. Dude knows what he's doing and this kind of material is in his wheelhouse.

  • Abe Lincoln | February 1, 2012 3:45 PM

    Disagree. Young Adult was infinitely better if not just for the performance by Charlize Theron. I don't know how much of it had to do with the writing, but Theron was amazing.

  • SNUB | February 1, 2012 11:06 AMReply

    Also, to clarify. Of course I'm for more diversity both in front of the camera and behind the camera.

    I just think in Hollywood, money is the most important thing, no matter what gender you are. If you prove you can make money, you'll have no problem getting work (Nancy Myers, Nora Ephron) and getting projects off the ground. If your movies flop (Lexi Alexander, Karyn Kusama) it will be harder. I don't think that's a gender thing.

  • jimmiescoffee | February 1, 2012 10:56 AMReply

    pretty much agreed. i think saying cody is hit and miss is an oversell. maybe if she didn't typecast herself with such obvious projects and repeatedly hit the audience over the head with her dialogue tendencies she would be better serving the female film community.

  • Snub | February 1, 2012 10:33 AMReply

    Why was she "snubbed?" why should it be set in stone that her screenplay gets nominated? Time to come to grips with the fact that just because the internet per-ordained it a great movie because it had Patton Oswalt, her, and Jason Reitman attached, doesn't mean it turned out to be any good or that the Oscars have to recognize it.

    It's also worth noting that the movies her "fempire" has created - "What Happens in Vegas" "Couples Retreat" "Jennifer's Body" "Nick and Norah" etc, were all awful, hated movies. That has nothing to do with the gender of the people who wrote them, but let's not act like these are amazing writers and directors who aren't given a fair chance. The fact is they've put out mediocre to bad work. Not saying they can't provide something great in the future, but come on - can you really argue that the director of "Jennifer's Body" deserves to be in the running for studio films? Or that the writer of "No Strings Attached" should be getting higher profile writing gigs?

  • AEON FLUX oh snap! | February 1, 2012 9:36 PM

    The comments below were speaking about Theron and Cody more than Oswalt. Oswalt does a great job but he was a long shot to begin with. The fact that you generalize Oswalt's role to "a fat nerd with a limp" proves that the entire movie went over your head. If that's what you took away from it, it's better you avoid films that require you to think, argue, converse, and/or feel something.

  • Snub | February 1, 2012 6:03 PM

    I don't hate Diablo Cody, but that fact that you brush off my opinion that way proves my point about blind Cody/Oswalt lovers who refuse to accept something they do might not be great. It wasn't a good movie.

    The best performance was by Patrick Wilson, yet no one cries out that he is snubbed it's just fanboys longing for Oswalt to be nominated. As if a fat, nerdy comedian playing a fat nerd with a limp is some major acting achievement.

  • Aim | February 1, 2012 3:50 PM

    Your reasoning makes no sense. The stellar reviews had nothing to do with the fact that certain names were attached to it. Do they ever? Have you even seen the movie? You sound like someone who just hates Diablo Cody so you're automatically going to dismiss a movie that was actually quite great. I went into Young Adult with no expectations and I actually really liked the film. I thought Theron and Oswalt were locks to be nominated for an Oscar, they were fantastic. The script was pretty great, too. I loved the ending. The scene between Theron and Collete Wolf is spectacular. Solid anti-ending. Do yourself a favor and watch the film and if you already have, watch it again. It's worth it.

  • Kade | February 1, 2012 3:45 PM

    She was snubbed, Mr. Snub. Young Adult was probably one of the best original screenplays not to mention films this year. That has nothing to do with the internet per-ordaining it or the names attached but good job showcasing your ignorance and overall stupidity. The film actually delivered the goods. Charlize Theron and Cody were probably the two biggest snubs, next to Fassbender and Swinton. The film is challenging, thought provoking, and original. I agree with the other films you listed were pretty bad but Young Adult should not be in the same sentence. Snubbed, it was!

  • sp | February 1, 2012 11:48 AM

    SNUB, you ar tough.

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