Quote of the Day: "Why? Why? Why? Don't they want the money?

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by Melissa Silverstein
June 14, 2012 10:45 AM
10 Comments
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That is the quote Meryl Streep uttered Tuesday night at the annual Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards.  She was onstage to present Viola Davis with her Crystal Award for Excellence in Film. 

Here's what she said via Vanity Fair's website:

In this room, we are very familiar with these dreadful statistics that detail the shocking under-representation of women in our business. Seven to ten percent of directors, producers, writers, and cinematographers [are women] in any given year. This in spite of the fact that in the last five years, five little movies aimed at women have earned over $1.6 billion: The Help, The Iron Lady believe it or not, Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia!, and The Devil Wears Prada. As you can see, their problems were significant because they cost a fraction of what the big tent-pole failures cost. . . . Let’s talk about The Iron Lady. It cost $14 million to make it and brought in $114 million. Pure profit! So why? Why? Don’t they want the money?

Here are Meryl and Viola talking to Access Hollywood

More accounts of the evening:

Meryl Streep Scolds Hollywood Studios for 'Big Tentpole Failures' (The Wrap)

Streep Lays Out Women's Pic Studio Stats at Women in Film Awards: "Why Don't They Want the Money?" (Thompson on Hollywood)

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10 Comments

  • WA | June 16, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    Katie, as a black woman i'm very annoyed by ppl who have to bring race into every issue. This issue is about women period, stay on the subject! There are films about history, black and white issues. Did you have a problem with the movie "For Color Girls," how many white woman could relate to that? Every movie doesn't have to be created with you in mind! I thought is was sad when ppl asked why Hunger Games had black ppl in it, i also think it's sad when black ppl think every moive has to to be catered to them. America is a country full of different nationalities, do you know how exhausting it would be to cater to every race in every movie? The Help was not a stereotypical movie, it was a movie based during a time when black women were maids. How authentic would this movie be if all the black women in it were business women in the early '60s? I mean seriously, you can't rewrite history to make you feel better. Sonic, regardless to what you think, there had to be some white ppl that helped blacks. At some point and time somebody has to pass laws to help blacks, someone had to say we won't associate ourselves with racist, we won't tolerate insensitive treament, shows, language, etc. Somebody had to realize the mistake of those that came before them. All these advances in equality were a joint effort. Naturally, there are more things catered to the majority. Regardless to how our ancestors came here, we are here and we must move forward. The ppl of the past are dead, live in the present. Evil still exist, but don't be apart of the very thing you hate. Both of you sound pretty bitter! I'm grateful that i wasn't born into sex trafficing, war, poverty and slavery. All these things exist in other countries. I will never forget the sacrifices of the ppl that came before me nor will i let my children.

  • onyx | June 17, 2012 7:05 PM

    Dear Wa,

    "Katie, as a black woman i'm very annoyed by ppl who have to bring race into every issue."

    Which is what you just did. But I digress.

    The maids of The Help were caricatures. Stereotypes from prior hollywood films, where heavy set, dark complexioned black woman played either the loyal, loving maid (Aibileen, Viola's part) or the grumpy, wise cracking maid (Octavia Spencer's Oscar winning part, an updating of Mammy from Gone With The Wind). See "Imitation of Life" for another example of Aibileen (Delilah, played by Louise Beavers and in 1959 Annie, played by Juanita Moore. No real backstory, no love life, just content to lovingly watch the kids and the white lead) and any sassy black woman role is Minny, from Neil Carter's Gimmee a Break! sitcom to Flo on the Jefferson's. In 2012, the sassy, funny black maid won against the sympathetic, crying black maid, with two Oscar wins now. Cicely Tyson's role is a hybrid of the two, much like Ethel Waters played in Member of the Wedding, all knowing, all nurturing.

    With Viola and Cicely playing Asexual hermits (just like in the novel, the film shows them as mature women living alone. While the reason was omitted in the film, the book makes it clear. Most of the black males paired with the primary maids were labeled as "no-ccount" "fools" or hit and run type males who left after a child was born). It's important to note that Kathryn Stockett was candid about being raised by grandparents who still followed the rules of segregation on the maid who inspired the character of Aibileen (in the back of her novel, under "Too little too late." Please note, Stockett was born in 1969 while the Civil Rights Act went into law in 1964) unfortunately, much of what Stockett was raised on seeped into her writing imo. I recognized the anecdotes coming out of the black characters mouths which ironically, were really insulting slurs used during segregation, myths about African Americans that were used to block equality.

    For the record I agree with Katie, especially since I lived during segregation and I hate chicken, as well as Minny's ultra coonish line in the movie:
    "Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life" Really? Okay Wa, fry some up right quick and tell me if you feel better about life :)

    See, maids went to college too. Because the south was home to traditionally black colleges, some founded in the late 1800s. Many worked as domestics while they made their way through college. So its wise to take a closer look at the revisionist history Hollywood is now trying to pass off as "feel good" entertainment.
    http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com

  • Duder NME | June 16, 2012 1:25 AMReply

    But do any of those five films pass the Bechdel test?

  • Linn | June 16, 2012 10:46 PM

    My "unscientific" answer: The Help (yes it would pass), The Iron Lady (don't think so - but I haven't finished the movie yet), Bridesmaids (passes), Mamma Mia! (don't think so), and The Devil Wears Prada (passes).

  • katie | June 15, 2012 10:44 AMReply

    "This in spite of the fact that in the last five years, five little movies aimed at (WHITE) women have earned over $1.6 billion: The Help, The Iron Lady believe it or not, Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia!, and The Devil Wears Prada." <---FTFY. As a African descent woman, I have to disagree that any of these films were created with African descended women in mind. The Help was created to make whites feel better about themselves and did the other films even HAVE African descended women in them? IJS

  • John | June 16, 2012 7:35 AM

    Who are you disagreeing with? No one in the story is quoted as saying these films were created with African descended women in mind.

  • Sonic | June 15, 2012 8:03 PM

    @ Katie: yea, I agree w/ you completely. Those films aren't really ABOUT the black women in them, the black characters exist solely to help propel the white people's stories ahead. No thanks. I don't want to watch crap about the white savior complex or some shit like that.

  • Katie | June 15, 2012 10:50 AM

    And when I say, " did the other films even HAVE African descended women in them?" I mean the African descended women that weren't tokens, stereotypes (The Help failed), and had a conversation that didn't revolve around the white characters for 30 secs.

  • LeonRaymond | June 14, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    The reason is, finely hand chiseled and superbly carved RACISM AND SEXISM, they let those go and we would really have a Hollywood worth talking about!!!

  • Rickystephen | June 14, 2012 1:18 PMReply

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