TV & Movies

A Director's Take on Why We Need More Women Behind the Camera

Because it's 2017, but also...

Director Patty Jenkins speaking with actress Gal Gadot on the set of Wonder Woman

(Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers)

Wonder Woman just shattered box office records, earning more than $223 million worldwide its opening weekend—the highest gross for a film directed by a woman. That is more than double the previous record ($85.1 million), earned by Fifty Shades of Grey’s Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Well-deserved kudos go to director Patty Jenkins, but this is by no means her first hit. Jenkins also directed the Oscar-winning film Monster in 2003.

If her resume isn’t impressive enough, then the big box office numbers are a clear indication that yes, shockingly, women can craft successful films—but data still shows a startling lack of female representation behind the camera. The fact that this record is even making headlines is a testament to the inequality in Hollywood, and that did not escape The Last Fall director Matthew A. Cherry.

On Sunday, while thousands packed theatres to see Gal Gadot gracefully smash the patriarchy , Cherry decided to share his thoughts on the film, and the media’s need to link the movie’s success to the future of female directors, with his 63,600 Twitter followers.

“I’ve always thought that women director offered more sensitivity and balance when it came to male/female relationships on screen and just wanted to put my take on it all out there and let people come to their own conclusions,” he told FLARE.

I mean, the simplest answer is this:

But Cherry decided to dig a bit deeper.

Cherry points to the idea of the “manic pixie dream girl,” a quirky-yet-charismatic female character we so often see on the big screen, similar to Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State, who has little depth and whose story is dependant on the male lead. Film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown and defined it as someone who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries.”

But, wait! Wonder Woman isn’t a MPDG, you may find yourself thinking, and you’re right, but consider this: Wonder Woman as a strong female protagonist has been in comics for around for 76 years (!)—meanwhile, it’s Spider-man and Batman who have gotten all the reboots, counting at least three each.

Cherry’s “Sexism in Hollywood 101” class continued with a brief recap of the Bechdel Test, which evaluates films on their representation of women based on three criteria: (1) having at least two female characters, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. (In case you were wondering, yes, Wonder Woman passes this test)

And as Twitter users pointed out, there are ways to score sexism:

Cherry went on to say that it is not necessarily a direct intent to portray women in this shallow way, but likely a result of the lack of diversity behind the camera.

Note: He meant to say “depictions” not “depreciations”

Cherry also pointed to Ava DuVernay’s Selma and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation as other examples of films that involved complex and nuanced female characters.

Speaking of DuVernay, entertainment writer and blogger Rebecca Theodore pointed out that many of these arguments parallel the discussion surrounding racial and cultural diversity in Hollywood. 

Cherry noted that the entire debate surrounding the representation of women reminded him of this tweet from Her Story creator Jen Richards:

Cherry concluded his Twitter essay saying that we need more female directors, not just because it’s about damn time, but also because it will make for better films.

Chatting with FLARE via Twitter DMs, Cherry expanded on the role that he feels men have when it comes to creating more space for women in the film industry. 

“I feel that men in Hollywood can help encourage and help create more opportunities for women by speaking out more when they see something,” he said. “Don’t think you can direct everything. Turning down a job that you think would be better for a woman director I think would be extremely honourable but I think supporting more women to get behind the camera and helping to nurture the next generation would be extremely helpful as well.” 

To conclude his Twitter essay, he differed to absolute boss Jessica Chastain. 

If there was a standing ovation option on Twitter, we would be all over that right now.

Related:

Gal Gadot: “I Feel Like Every Woman Is Wonder Woman”
Anne T. Donahue: Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be a Movie, Not a Movement?
Wait, Wonder Woman Eats Diet Bars?
Toronto Black Film Festival’s Fabienne Colas: “We Need Diversity”

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