Photo: From left to right – James Norton, Louis Garrel, Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig, Writer/Director, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Tracy Letts, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet and Chris Cooper attend the World Premiere of Columbia Pictures ‘Little Women’, sponsored by Synchrony, at the MoMA in New York City
A Look At The Progress For Women In Film
Lack of female representation in film in 2020: Power dynamics between men and women in the film industry have been up for debate for years. For decades, women in film have continued to be undervalued, underpaid, and misrepresented. While progress is always ongoing and we are constantly working toward a better future within the entertainment industry, it is important to stop and recognize the movements and individuals who have expanded and improved what the future looks like for women within television and film. Today, the industry is still far from a perfect environment of gender equality either in front of or behind the camera, but things are continuing to get better. Female film professionals are continually striving to protect the future for up and coming filmmakers, and hopefully, this progress will only further inspire more individuals to stand up for the women within the industry and give them the voice they deserve.
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History and Issues of Female Representation in Film
For as long as film has existed, men have assumed the dominant power positions within it. Conversely, women have often been made to feel useful solely in terms of how they relate to the male gaze. With the birth of film came the birth of the over-sexualization of female characters in order to gratify male viewers. Most female characters were written to be merely things for men to look at, and there were virtually zero cinematic portrayals of women sitting in positions of power. We have implored men repeatedly to accurately tell a woman’s journey, to really get things right, yet the industry has been unable to appoint an equal number of female executives who would be able to call the shots on what stories get told and how. Film executives can throw females in front of the camera as much as they want, but the power imbalance can never be fixed unless more women are in positions of power themselves. Can a man accurately write a woman’s story? Perhaps. But it is undeniable that women’s ideas would simply make that story so much more credible and realistic.
The female speaking role may appear to have been around forever, but what about the female speaking role that actually has real depth and substance? There is still a profound lack of female characters who transcend the roles of mere wives or sidekicks. Women of color still lack leading roles, and LGBTQ women continue to be harmfully underrepresented. Decades ago, however, these things were not even a consideration. The thought of having any woman as a leading role in a film without a man present was seen as absurd. Thankfully, the industry has been able to move on from the archaic gender stereotypes by which women were marginalized, but that does not mean that further progress cannot still be made. The #MeToo movement did wonders in circulating positive speech surrounding women and particularly women in film. Though the conversation is important, it proves to have little importance if there is no action taken. Until we see more diversity within Hollywood executive positions, women will remain disadvantaged and misrepresented.
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Is There Still A Lack of Female Representation in Film In 2020? Is it Getting Better?
There is a strong hopefulness among young filmmakers and movie-lovers regarding the future of the female role in cinema. Greta Gerwig, a prominent female director, and writer who has been paving her own path in the industry has sparked much inspiration for the way she writes and directs female characters. Her films Lady Bird and Little Women both support the narratives of strong, unwavering female characters without kowtowing to the ancient gender norms that have been represented throughout film and society for centuries.
In order to witness a more raw and honest depiction of women’s journeys, people of status and influence within the industry must be willing to put more women in power. If we have more female producers, writers, and directors, the probability of getting female-centric stories with diverse and strong female characters becomes more likely. A 2020 Guardian article recounts the events at this year’s Sundance Film Festival from author Benjamin Lee’s perspective. Lee recalls the joy he felt realizing just how many screenings at the festival were female written, directed, edited, etc. He says, “I was walking with a fellow critic, recounting what I’d seen and I figured out that thus far, I’d only seen one film directed by a man.”
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The progress of female representation within the film seems very ‘one step forward two steps back’ at times. The ways in which women have been treated throughout the history of film and the ways in which their representation has been normalized has greatly influenced the types of stories we see today. Some brilliant films this year were female made yet they were somehow still pushed to the background (Hustlers, The Farewell, Honey Boy, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Clemency and Little Women), and this is truly disheartening. But the real change comes from recognizing the discrepancies within the award circuit in film and how the industry fails to recognize these amazing female projects. If we continue to give female filmmakers power and recognize their talents as equal, the progress can continue on strong and, in turn, leave behind the tired notion that men should have more power within entertainment.
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An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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