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Hollywood Sexism: Male Directors Are Discoveries, Female Directors Are "Gambles"

By Kristy Puchko | Film | June 1, 2017 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | June 1, 2017 |

This is a big weekend for director Patty Jenkins. 14 years after making an incredible breakthrough with her first film Monster, the compelling Aileen Wuornos biopic that won Charlize Theron an Oscar, the admired director is revealing her big-budget follow-up, the widely praised Wonder Woman. It’s a trajectory that’s pretty common in Hollywood: daring director wins praise for indie debut, a studio gives them a shot at a franchise in need of some style and voice. Except when you’re a man, you rarely have to wait 14 years for the opportunity. Maybe that’s why THR’s profile on Jenkins calls her hiring “a gamble.”

Perhaps you want to give The Hollywood Reporter the benefit of the doubt, thinking that tweet is purposefully infuriating so you’ll click the link. Well, this isn’t clickbait, friends! The accompanying article is just as insulting and sexist. Behold the first paragraph, where this acclaimed director is described not by the content of her character or her accomplishments, but by her clothes and lunch selection:

Patty Jenkins is sipping some sort of healthy soup-like sludge at a restaurant in Burbank called Olive & Thyme. Dressed in black jeans and a white tank top, with a pair of aviator sunglasses perched on her forehead to keep her straight black hair from falling into her brown eyes, she looks like a grad student taking a break between classes. You’d never guess that this petite woman drinking green gunk is actually the most important female film director in the business today.

It’s a gross tone that casts a shadow over the rest of the piece that’s meant to be celebrating Jenkins, yet calls her “a big gamble” for Warner Bros, and then puts this on her shoulders:

If Wonder Woman is a hit, then doors that have been kept shut for decades could potentially swing open (they are already, at least a crack, with Gina Prince-Bythewood just getting hired to direct Sony’s Spider-Man spinoff Silver & Black). If, on the other hand, Wonder Woman turns out to be another Catwoman, the superhero universe could remain a boys club for eons to come.

Notably, this statement looks only to how Wonder Woman might impact female representation in front of the camera, as it totally ignores that Catwoman was a movie that was actually directed by a man (Pitof. Just Pitof.)

Twitter was quick to clap back at Tatiana Siegel’s piece. (Yes, this drivel was written by a woman. Sexist shit is not limited to men-only.) Some of Film Twitter reframed Jenkins’ hiring.

Others called out the male directors who got the same chance without having to wait a decade and a half for it.

Germain Lussier of i09 went so far as to compile a list of male directors who got this same shot, normally within a year or two of their celebrated Sundance select. (Note how many of them did not make movies that got Oscar notice.)

Meanwhile, THR decided to throw “gender politics” as a piece, like a buzzword they don’t understand (so bae!), instead of actually engaging with the gender politics of how a female director needs to accomplish so much more before getting the same opportunities bestowed on male directors. I mean, look at Gina Prince-Bythewood. She directed three endearing films, Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and Beyond the Lights , before she was trusted with the Spider-Man spinoff Silver & Black, which will center on Silver Sable and Black Cat. Meanwhile Pitoff got Catwoman after directing the French action-fantasy Vidocq. (Never heard of it? Neither have I or Box Office Mojo, most of Rotten Tomatoes’s critics or much of the internet.)

Basically, it’s not trusting an indie director that Hollywood sees as a gamble, it’s trusting a woman with a big budget action-heavy property. And as much as I’d like to think Jenkins will shatter the glass ceiling with Wonder Woman this weekend, real life rarely works like the movies. It’s unlikely the Hollywood suits who traditionally only have eyes for bros who remind them of Spielberg or Lucas will all of a sudden see female directors as directors first and female second. Still, Wonder Woman could prove an important turning point. So if you want to see more women in front of and behind the camera in big movies, be sure to buy a ticket to Wonder Woman this weekend. And of course clap back whenever the press falls back on stupid sexist narratives.