Sunday 10 January 2010

From the Women and Hollywood Blog

by Melissa Silverstein

Yesterday, Kathryn Bigelow earned her first DGA nomination for directing The Hurt Locker. She’s not the one who made history yesterday. Seven women — Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties”), Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”), Barbra Streisand (“The Prince of Tides”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Valerie Faris (who was nominated with Jonathan Dayton for “Little Miss Sunshine” — came before her but keep in mind NONE have won. Lee Daniels was the surprise nominee for Precious making him the first black person to be nominated for a DGA honor. (Only John Singleton has been nominated for an Oscar.)

Now we all know that everyone has written ad nauseum about how Kathryn Bigelow has made a career of directing so-called “non-female” films. Films with action, and stuff blowing up. There are other women in her camp most notably Karyn Kusama. I for one am fucking sick of this conversation. We need to move on. There are men who direct movies that have more of a female sensibility like Ken Kwapis (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, He’s Just Not That Into You) and Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper) and NOBODY ask if they are a male director.

Why is it when a woman ventures out of the safety of girlworld does her gender get talked about over and over but the same conversation never happens to the guys?

IndieWIRE’s new piece Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director? also lays out the contradictions. And the thing about this conversation is that it is rife with contradictions. I have them myself all the time. I’m as conflicted as Caryn James who said recently on this site when talking about the Golden Globe nominations (and picked up in the IndieWIRE piece) “real progress will come when we stop looking at poetic films as if they exist in some lesser, female category.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that we are going to have the 4th potential best directing nod for a woman and maybe the first win and I’m really glad that lots of critics and bloggers have woken up to the fact that Hollywood doesn’t really respect women in the same way as men. I think that just having these conversations will help improve things for women directors because FINALLY this issue is being discussed in more places that just the feminist world.

The bottom line to me is that we have made progress in people feeling comfortable with a woman director through Bigelow’s work, but we have minimal progress in how we look at films with a female sensibility. Granted we have Precious and An Education which are in the year end hunt, but remember they are both about young women coming of age. Hollywood is much more comfortable with young women’s lives and experiences than older women.

But let’s be real, Hollywood is not any different from the rest of the culture. We still have a hard time seeing women and women’s experiences as universal. We are “other” and the male experience is the “norm”.

I think it was naive to hope that the first woman to win the best directing Oscar would be a director of a more “female” type movie. We’re just not ready for that. This could be one of the big reasons why Kathryn Bigelow will be the breakthrough female director. She’s a woman who doesn’t threaten the universal vision of the world — that boys rule.

1 comment:

theroofcat said...

Good points. Technology, informatics and science, may advance with times but the basic relations of power between men and women remain much the sameas it was inpre-historic times.

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In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.