Film & Television

The Academy Moves in the Right Direction . . . at a Glacial Pace

With all of these wonderful women represented, there is one missing: Wonder Woman, herself. Patty Jenkins’ movie earned $412.5 million domestically, surpassed only by Beauty and the Beast ($504 million), which opened three months earlier, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($605.5 million), a force unto itself. Wonder Woman was a critical success as well as a commercial one, garnering 92% on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Jenkins, whose sweeping vision and precise, technical skill are both evident in every frame of the film is a conspicuous oversight. Perhaps the Academy felt they had done enough by nominating Gerwig.

At least, with that single nomination, the Academy won’t have to hear any sarcasm from the likes of Natalie Portman, who improvised a bit as a Best Director presenter at the Golden Globes. “And, the all-male nominees are …” she said, earning appreciative applause from the audience. The event, with most attendees dressed in black to show solidarity with victims of sexual discrimination, harassment, and abuse, quickly became a platform for empowerment. Oprah Winfrey ended her rousing speech as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement with a battle cry (and what many predict may be the launch of a presidential run):

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

We can safely expect to hear similar inspiring words at the Oscars. But, words are just the beginning.

As marketers would say, women’s issues are trending. And no industry leverages trends quite like Hollywood. The outrage over accused predators like Harvey Weinstein, the newsworthiness of the discrepancy in salaries of costars Michelle Williams and Matt Damon. . .these are undeniably moves forward. But, do they represent real and lasting change? Will women’s voices — in significant numbers — finally be heard?

Women are still woefully underemployed in Hollywood. According to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women made up only 18% of directors, producers, editors and cinematographers in the top 250 films of 2017. That represents virtually no growth since one of the Center’s earliest studies. In 1997, twenty years ago, women made up 17%. This certainly speaks to an industry culture that is discouraging if not downright toxic.

Bottom line, the focus needs to broaden. It shouldn’t be about just who wins awards but about who gets to work. And, by all counts, that issue isn’t moving fast enough.

As Streep once said in her iconic (and Oscar-nominated, of course) role as editor Miranda Priestley in Devil Wears Prada, “By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.”

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