Women in Media: In Front and Behind

A collective community of Christian artists; that is what we strive to attain here at Narrative. Working here, there is no inequality, no gender bias, no sexism, or racism. We strive to learn from the differences we possess and bond through the similarities we share. This is not how Hollywood operates. The privilege and equality that we enjoy here (where we are allowed to make the rules), does not even remotely reflect the greed run corporation of Tinseltown. From the casting couch to the conscious and unconscious sexism present in blockbuster films, there is an obvious disadvantage for women in the city of stars.

The casting couch. Most people within the industry are all too familiar with this term. It refers to the exchange or demand of sexual favors from a casting director or producer made to an aspiring actor. The casting couch has been around since the rise of big name studios in 1910. In 1945 Maureen O’Hara was quoted, saying, "I don't let the producer and director kiss me every morning or let them paw me." Again in 2004, "I wouldn't throw myself on the casting couch, and I know that cost me parts." If a women refuses to sleep her way to a role she will most likely not receive the part. Horrific stories of the casting couch have been exposed from nearly every famous actress you could think of. Megan Fox, Charlize Theron, Lisa Rinna, Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, and countless others. The casting couch can quickly transition from an inappropriate proposition to assault, making auditions that much more dangerous for young women to attend unaccompanied.

The sexism present in Hollywood blockbusters is atrocious and despicable. I weep with joy whenever I am gifted a well written female character in a non-indie picture. But that is the greatest problem. I am excited by a well written female character which implies that I do not often seen one. I have seen more bears in the wild then I have intelligent female characters in blockbusters. Now what do I mean when I say blockbuster? Because as I mentioned earlier, indie films, period dramas, romance films, and historical biographies often contain female leads that are very well written and interesting characters. But those films are not blockbusters. I am talking about the money-makers. I am talking about superhero, comedy, dinosaur, horror, musical extravaganzas. And I can count on my one hand the number of those I have seen that contained three-dimensional female leads. Let me name the ones I thought of; Wonderwoman,  obviously, Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park, Mia in La La Land, All of Oceans 8, which I hesitate to call a blockbuster, and Rey in The Force Awakens. And it was difficult to think of five! Why are there so few big films with female leads?

The films are written, directed, and produced by men. This is not a slam or a jab at the men in Hollywood. I respect and admire the work of many of the directors working in business. But the truth is that most men lack the ability to write female characters well.There are exceptions, of course, because talented writers write people rather than genders, but your run of the mill hollywood screenwriter cannot understand what it means to be a teenage girl, or a newly divorced woman, or a black woman in the workplace. There are certain stories that can only be told by certain people. Seth Macfarlane revealed that the only reason Meg in Family Guy is so

bullied and abused is because he and his writers had absolutely no clue how to write for a teenage girl. If you watched any James Bond film you will notice that the female characters, aside from Dame Judi Dench as M, only exist for Mr. Bond to engage in carnal relations with and then possibly save. Women in films tend to exist as arm candy or are only added to entice the female demographic that studios often overlook. Why does this happen? Because market executives look at movie theatre attendance across the globe and determine what gender and what age group of people are going to see which films; and then market to the highest paying demographic. Which is why try as we might, we cannot seem to shake the idea of “action movies are for boys and romance movies are for girls stigma. So they don’t know how to write the characters and when they can, they choose not to, because it won’t be profitable.

I realize that unpacking the whole of gender inequality within the film industry is a long and winding pathway, and so many factors feed into it from different places. It is like a flowing river that gets bigger and wider as various small creeks empty into it. The glass ceiling keeps women out of higher positions. The industry is already difficult to find a job in as is. There are less women writers, less women producers, and less women directors currently working in Hollywood. That means more males calling the shots and writing characters. More men means that they still control the industry. Men controlling the industry makes the casting couch easier to hide. Sexism is allowed to run rampant in front of and behind the camera. It is a brutal and vicious cycle. Without representation, women lack a voice. Without a voice, we cannot share the stories that we are called to. Without women behind the camera, we will not see real women in front of the camera.

by Mya Anderson