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The ACLU Is Investigating Hollywood for Gender Bias

By Courtney Enlow | Industry | May 12, 2015 |

By Courtney Enlow | Industry | May 12, 2015 |

Hollywood has a woman problem. It’s just a fact. As a recent study indicated, only 1.9 percent of the top 100 films in 2014 were directed by women. They fare significantly better in television, but even that is laughably low.

So, in “thank you, Jesus, it’s about time” news, Hollywood is under investigation for leaving women out of its reindeer games (the movie Reindeer Games? Written and directed by men. Think about it.). The ACLU has reached out to national and state agencies to bring attention to “the systemic pattern and practice of discrimination and exclusion” women face in the industry, specifically directing.

See, men in the industry can have great careers steeped in mediocrity. Think women can? Nope. To succeed, a woman must do exceptionally well. And even then, her “success” is vastly different from that experienced by men.

“If you make an independent film and reach the gold standard, and your film is chosen to be at the Sundance Film Festival, and it sells at Sundance, or gets festival play and wins audience awards - the studios after that seem to offer, if anything, women a very small project,” [an anonymous] female director said. “They don’t put the kind of budgets behind women that they risk with less experienced men.”

How often do you hear about a female indie director who gets a shot at a massive blockbuster project? You don’t. But it happens to men all the time. Consider Neil Blomkamp, or Gareth Edwards.

Some in the industry point to the career arc of Gareth Edwards, who, after making the independent film “Monsters,” was selected by Warner Bros. to direct the $160 million 2014 reboot of “Godzilla.” This underscores the widely held perception, the A.C.L.U. letters say, that women are ill-suited for directing action or superhero films, and instead better geared for directing romantic comedies or commercials for feminine products, even though plenty of such projects go to men.

What happens to women who direct critically acclaimed films, even those that make it to the Oscars and ignite one of the most explosive acting careers in Hollywood (ironically one we know was paid vastly less than her co-stars on a certain other Oscar-winning picture)? Lexi Alexander put that out there in LA Weekly’s incredible, tragic article on Hollywood’s boys club.

“Look, I’m still in, I’m still directing. [But] how does a director do Winter’s Bone,” the 2010 drama directed by Debra Granik, which launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career, “and it’s not the biggest thing we talk about?”

Alexander explains that Granik “basically could not find work. She had to do a documentary because nothing she did was screening. Think about that, you know?”

So the ACLU is getting onboard with the Shit People Say to Women Directors Tumblr and asking Hollywood to look inward. And, since it probably won’t, it’s asking federal agencies to do it for them, to investigate their hiring practices.

This is major. This is huge. But will it help things? Only time will tell. But as a woman, sometimes, it’s a big deal just to be heard, to know someone is listening, to know someone is on your side. And isn’t that fucking tragic?

You can read the entire letter here.

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