I went with a friend this past weekend to see Django Unchained and it was the usual magnificence one expects from Quentin Tarantino. I’ve always been a big fan of Tarantino, ever since the brilliance of Reservoir Dogs. As a film theory major, I am well acquainted with the notion of fractured narratives, and I sat through the boring-ass “brilliance” of Roshomon, just like every other film theory degree student the world over. Because there is nothing a barista at Starbucks needs more than a thorough knowledge of Japanese films.
But Reservoir Dogs? Oh my! From the first frame to the last, it was a wild ride across time and space that showed American film audiences in particular that they weren’t too dumb to enjoy what is essentially an art-house film. Tarantino translated the avant-guarde into the mainstream, and for that, he deserves every accolade a filmmaker can possibly get. Tarantino has been nominated for Best Director twice, and best screenwriter three times, taking the statue for writing Pulp Fiction.
He followed Reservoir Dogs with Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill films, all hugely successful and established himself as a legendary filmmaker. Django Unchained is his latest salvo in the war to win Best Director of All Time, and I’d say Tarantino has a good shot at it.
Well, duh! It’s because he doesn’t have to compete with all the awesome lady directors who are being held in a cage by the evil patriarchy that won’t let them get out there and put their own lady stamp on the celluloid world.
So says Jezebel.
In an unintentionally hilarious whinefest of an article, 21 year old Eden Sher recounts her experience working as an actress in Hollywood (yeah, I’ve never heard of her either) and her short forays into the world of directing.
I was neither fearless nor powerful. The first day of shooting, my mannerisms undermined my authority. I was directing, technically, but every order I gave came with an apology: to my director of photography when I wanted him to reshoot something, to my lead actress any time I wanted her to slightly tweak her performance, even to my sound guy when he accidentally stuck his boom mic in the shot (“I’m sorry to ask you to fix this big mistake…”). I had turned into this fearful, powerless, shrunken speck of a human, and it took me fourteen hours to realize how I was behaving.
In all fairness to Eden, she is well aware of the fact that there are no lady directors because, well, there are no ladies that WANT to direct. Not many of them, at any rate.
It isn’t just that capable women are being turned away from the job. Capable women aren’t even applying for the job. The most important missing factor in ladies directing is ladies believing they can direct at all.
Believing, Eden? Or wanting?
Being a director is not for the faint of heart. You are responsible for an astonishing amount of money and you must answer to your investors, who won’t be shy about telling you are creating a piece of shit movie. You must take huge risks to make your work stand out from the crowd. You need a rock-solid sense of yourself and your vision and what you wish to convey. You need to command your crew with absolute authority and since you are on a tight timeline and time is money, you can’t stand around apologizing and dickering with unruly crewmates.
Oh hello James Cameron!
Like it or not, for better or for worse, there are far more men than women who possess the qualities needed to survive and thrive as a director in the movie industry. Women who DO have what it takes WILL find opportunity, and always have. And what do they do with that opportunity?
Top Ten Female Directors in Hollywood, according to Moviefone.
- Kathryn Bigelow – James Cameron’s ex-wife (nuff said)
- Amy Heckerling – made a film about teenage girls shopping in LA
- Julie Taymor – makes weird films about music and Shakespeare
- Nicole Holofcener – chick flicks but you’ve probably never heard of them
- Catherine Hardwicke – makes films about teenagers and directed the first Twilight but was replaced
- Jane Campion – made a stunning film about a piano
- Soffia Coppola – Francis Ford’s daughter (nuff said)
- Mia Nair – adapts famous British novels for the screen
- Nora Ephron – fabulous chick flicks and rom-coms
- Nancy Meyers – chick flicks
Some of those ladies made some really good films, but not one of them has any claim to greatness. They did not produce films that drove forward tremendous innovations in cinema. Not one of them produced a film that was a global blockbuster, transporting audiences around the world into their own personal visions. Not one of them addressed compelling histories and biographies of important events and people. Not one of them set a new standard for technological achievement.
Let’s take a look at some male directors, shall we?
- Stephen Spielberg
- James Cameron
- George Lucas
- Quentin Tarantino
- Michael Bay
- Martin Scorcese
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Joel Coen
- Tim Burton
- Ang Lee
Show me one woman who has achieved anything like Avatar or Star Wars or Saving Private Ryan. I don’t need to recount the films these men made because you already know them. These men ARE cinema.
Even when women get the opportunity to front a multi-million dollar budget and command a crew, they use that opportunity to make small, personal, usually romantic films (except for Bigelow, but she had quite the mentor, didn’t she?). And there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
There is no conspiracy against women directing films. Most women working in the industry don’t WANT to direct, and those that do are mostly interested in little films that deal with the emotional entanglements of women. This is the same issue as women on the boards or in the corner office of Fortune 500 companies. There is no “glass ceiling” keeping the ladies out. THEY DON’T WANT TO BE THERE.
For women like Eden, who want to direct I say this: go for it, chickie. If you’re any good, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
But to all the people wondering where all the women directors are, I have this to say: they’re doing something else. Something they WANT to do, and all the shrieking in the world isn’t going to change women’s basic orientation to the world, nor should that even be a goal. If feminism is a political theory that encourages women to do what they want to do, then it also needs to accept what they DON’T want to do.
Since 1903, when The Great Train Robbery was first cobbled together, there have been women working in Hollywood. No one stopped them from achieving greatness.
Greatness isn’t something women achieve through the lens of a camera.
Who knows? Maybe Eden will be a woman who DOES achieve cinematic greatness. She would be the first, then. In all likelihood, she will hit her late 20’s, find a husband, have a baby and nothing in the world but that little person will ever matter to her again. Tends to be the way things go, no? But maybe not. Maybe Eden will be that woman. The one who transforms the art of filmmaking and transports audiences into realms previously unimagined. Maybe.
I’m not holding my breath.
Lots of love,