The Bigelow Effect - Why We Care

by Melissa Silverstein
January 31, 2011 4:59 AM
8 Comments
  • |

Why do we care about women's presence in the awards race? Specifically, why do we care so much about a woman getting nominated for best director? That is a great question raised in an very well-written piece by a young woman director named Lindsay on the website Canonball. One thing she asks is if we have been left out of the awards for so long, why should we as women change what we do in order to fit in?

I love this piece as a wake up call to the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in this field. Lindsay has wanted to be a director since she was 17 (I don't know how old she is now.) But it took her until college and her own research to discover other role models out there for her vision. Now that just sucks. Any guy of 17 could just look around and see multiple male role models in abundance.

But not women. But then Bigelow won last year and now there was a different kind of female role model -- an award winner. And that matters. It matters to the women who would never want to make a movie like Kathryn Bigelow, and it matters to the women desperate to be recognized in that genre.

So this year when it became clear that none of the women would make it to finals much less the championship, I couldn't help but think how disappointed I was. I was disappointed because two of the ten films nominated for best picture made it to the finals but their coaches are only made it to the second string team. Granted, everyone's (the prognosticators) front runner to win the award, Christopher Nolan, didn't get his nomination either, but he was robbed (so they say) and Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik should just be happy to be included.

Bullshit.

Facing the real facts, young women like Lindsay might not see another woman up for a nomination for another 82 years. I am hoping that we won't have to wait that long but the statistics are not on our side. Tomorrow, Dr. Martha Lauzen will release her annual study on the percentage of women working in the top 250 films. The percentage of female directors has not budged from 7%. And that is down from 9% in 1998. Now I know that it takes a long time to feel the effects of change and maybe in 5 or 10 years we will get the percentage of women director up into the double digits. Should we be happy with that? I don't think so. And should we be happy that we have one woman in the record books? Should we be nice girls and shut up? I don't think so. And remember that because Kathryn Bigelow won for directing a war movie about male soldiers, we still have no female winner who has directed a movie about women. The Academy had a chance to do that this year -- actually two chances -- and it passed.

I do care. As does Lindsay, as should you. I care because I want little girls to see that they can be directors (or anything else that society keeps telling them they can be), and I care because I want little boys to know that they are not the only out there up for these jobs. I care because everybody's vision matters, and I care because I want Lindsay to fulfill her dream.

Should Women Even Care About the Best Director Oscar? (Canonball)

2011 Oscar Nominations – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? (Women's Voice for Change)

  • |

More: Women Directors, Academy Awards

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

8 Comments

  • Tina | February 1, 2011 12:49 AMReply

    Wow! Jerk (aka a director) should be exhibit A on the attitude we face in the industry.

    While I agree this is a brutal career, which takes many years, if you are successful at all. And you do indeed gamble your life and your youth... I find it increasingly bizarre that film remains such a boys club, as the whole world moves ahead. The other day a women told me her sister at medical school is having trouble meeting men...because there's so many women. My mother didn't go to medical school, because they wouldn't accept women back then. But that was a long fucking time ago. She told me when the nurses would take their college history classes with the men. The men would harass them, telling them they didn't belong, weren't smart enough, even though they got better grades.

    I think the men in this industry are afraid to compete on an even playing field, because they might lose. There are some talented men and but there are also some hacks, who wouldn't ever get a chance. And yes, I'm aware being rich or the spawn of hollywood royalty trumps all.

    Jerk, if you want to stay stuck in 1950. Go right ahead. But one day, a woman may be in a position to help you or hire you. And she may tell you to go fuck yourself instead.

  • Kath | January 31, 2011 11:33 AMReply

    Jeff, it takes ovaries, darling.

    Ovaries are strong, balls are weak.

    To say, "it takes balls, sweetheart" shows that you are a male chauvinist. You do NOT want women to be great directors.

  • Jeff Ramos | January 31, 2011 10:00 AMReply

    Women Make Movies is a great organization aiming to stop this problem.

    http://www.wmm.com/about/general_info.shtml

  • JERK | January 31, 2011 9:22 AMReply

    Bigelow won because Hollywood hates her ex-husband, James Cameron. The Hurt Locker was an undeserving film, and Bigelow's career as a director is at best lightweight. If you liked that film, I question your knowledge of cinema.

    The reason that not many female directors are getting recognized is because there are not many female directors. Women are more risk averse than men, and they do not go into careers where they have to compete with every waiter in NY & LA trying to be famous, every rich kid art school student in SF, and every MFA poser throughout Middle America. Women (mostly) do not start enterprises, or fund them. This is the way to the top... and that's good free advice for any one listening.

    If you look at the biographies of successful directors you will see a trend, if the filmmaking gig had not worked out, they would have been destroyed as individuals. Women rarely take a risk like this.

    It's wrong to tell people who have wagered this -- & won, when many of their friends, destroyed themselves trying -- you succeeded because *it was easier for you* because of some built in sexism in the industry.

    In general, women do not go into entertainment in any serious way (other than acting, of course) because they are smart enough not too.

    The road to Hollywood is ten years long, if you get there at all.

    I'm going to give you another truth -- while it's on my mind -- being an artist is about the art, but being a successful artist is more than 50 percent about competing with other artists.

    More than just directors, there aren't many screenwriters, producers, or even comedians that are female. For example, in stand-up comedy it's all guys, but as in any other entertainment medium, if you can do it just as well, you will go straight to the top, just for being female.

    There are successful female entertainers, they just build themselves as a brand, Oprah, Cindy Crawford, Inc., Tyra Banks, even Paris Hilton and the Kardashians have a method. The big difference is they put their money where their BIG FEMINIST MOUTH is.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is... it takes balls, sweetheart.

    Or a divorce from James Cameron, whichever.

    You can't refuse to build a table and then demand a place at it. But I bet you're an academic type, anyway.

    -A Director

  • ana | January 31, 2011 8:54 AMReply

    really Josh? it must be the same for president or CEO! it's because "women are not into it", women just want to be secretary or personal assistant I guess? you're right, there's no sexism,no racism neither. with that point of view Josh, you just say everything about our world.

  • Kate | January 31, 2011 8:45 AMReply

    Sorry Josh but your opinion is not supported by facts.

    Women have inequitable access to training, funding, mentoring and directing opportunities. This is well documented by fact-based research, not the personal opinion you are citing here.

    I work in a Canadian city where opportunities for women directors are good---but we still lose out on big paying commercial work to men with fewer qualifications, and work with smaller budgets on projects were are usually producing ourselves.

    Study after study shows that women who are trained to direct don't stay directing because there just aren't enough opportunities.

    Following the money shows it goes to men.

    Directing is a sausage party, period.

  • Josh | January 31, 2011 6:57 AMReply

    I am pretty sure that the reason there aren't many women directing films is because directing isn't something women are usually into, not because there is some kind of innate sexism.

  • Erin Donovan | January 31, 2011 6:38 AMReply

    Well put, Melissa.

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Women Dominate This Year's Olivier ...
  • Tribeca Women DIrectors: Meet Elizabeth ...
  • Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Anete ...
  • Julie Walters to Receive British TV's ...
  • Divergent Third Novel to be Split into ...
  • Weekly Update for March April 11: Women ...
  • Trailer Watch: Food Industry Scrutinized ...
  • Tribeca Women Directors: Meet Sofia ...
  • Studios Still Leaving Money on the Table ...
  • Donna Tartt, Annie Baker Win Pulitz ...