It’s not always easy to discern the gender of a director from their films. For the most part, there’s just not much of a reason to care, but every now and then, a film will drop an obvious clue about the presence of a Y chromosome in its director.
In case you’re interested in playing this guessing game, I’ll give you a little example of one of these said indications. 300: Rise of an Empire — a decent follow-up to its phenomenal predecessor, 300 — dramatizes the tale of the ancient Battle of Salamis. Artemisia, a naval commander for King Xerxes, is the film’s primary antagonist whose “ferocity was bested only by her beauty.”
Pay attention to that description. Do you think a female director would have felt the urge to qualify her ferocity with beauty? Me neither.
In fact, if you’re good at this, you should be finding that you’re guessing a male director around 90 percent of the time.
Some people have a problem with this number. Most noticeable among them is Molly Lambert, a popular columnist for Grantland. Her article “The 15 Percent: Why Are Women Still So Poorly Represented in Hollywood?” explores the fact that “of the top movies of 2013, only 15 percent featured female leads, and women made up only 30 percent of the speaking roles.”
She blames this on the lack of females on the production side of film including writing, directing and cinematography. If we do not have females creating the films, then we could not we expect women to be featured in as prominent of roles as men. Men are, in general, more preoccupied with the stories of their own sex than of females and make films accordingly.
As male-oriented as film can be, I’m mostly unsympathetic to those who decry this imbalance as unjust.
A director has the right to make a movie however they like, and if that involves using men in more leading roles than females, so be it.
If women want to pursue film, the opportunity is there for the taking. It will not be an easy field, but there are no barriers blocking women from pursuing this dream. The industry is tough to break into for everyone, men and women alike.
If undergraduate and graduate film schools were refusing to accept females, that would be an issue, but what we have here is not an institutional barrier. Instead, we simply have a reluctance of women to go into film for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Nobody is a victim here.
It is bothersome to read Lambert state, “When you look at the nominees for Best Director, the majority are white men of a certain age, year after year after year,” as if this is some type of tragedy. If those are the people who produced great films, then those are the people that deserve the nominations. Sorry it’s not mixed to a perfect race and gender equilibrium.
Even if more women went into directing and producing films, we wouldn’t see them pushing social agendas in lieu of telling stories. Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, stated in a 2009 Newsweek interview, “I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about what my aptitude is, and I really think it’s to explore and push the medium. It’s not about breaking gender roles or genre traditions.”
Without an antagonist to challenge, this non-issue really devolves into useless whining. If the female sex as a whole does not want to work in film to the extent that males do, that’s OK. We need to stop making women seem like the victim of everything.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurphJamin