The Oscars: Female Films Are Not Niche Experiences

By Samantha Ladwig

Part I: The Habit

Another Oscar year has come and gone, and it continues to disregard the sheer talent of women in filmmaking. Another year of  “who are you wearing” and “let’s see those nails in the manicam.” Another year of failing to notice the talent of women in the film industry. Why are we blatantly snubbing women from traditional male roles of filmmaking? Because it’s simply a habit.

Of course I noticed the lack of female heroes in the Oscars short compilation of movie heroes. And the complete disregard of Emma Watson’s “Harry Potter” character, emphasized by the camera zooming in on her after her snub. But it wasn’t until Bill Murray presented the award for cinematography that I truly became irritated. His reference to the gentlemen of the category poked right at the idea of that the industry is run by one gender. Grabbing my computer I started researching the women in technical positions of filmmaking. Knowing that there are indeed female made films, it was unbelievable, and upsetting to find that “the percentage of female film writers dropped from 13 percent to 10; the percentage of female directors dropped from nine to six,” all within this past year in relation to the top 250 grossing films. No freaking wonder women aren’t getting represented. Our focus on attire supports studios in financing male-driven films. How do we take women seriously when we choose to focus on an actress’ dress rather than her creative challenges of portraying someone other than themselves? This isn’t to say that these wonderful female actresses aren’t talented, or irritated by the fact that they aren’t represented behind the scenes. But we as an audience influence the studios in making decisions as to what movies get funded and distributed. So again, why are we asking women about their outfits rather than their talents? Because the women working behind the scenes are completely, unfairly represented in the film industry.

Thankfully women like Cate Blanchett talk about this issue regularly, as we saw on stage last night during her Best Actress acceptance speech. Her choice to prove that people will pay to see leading female characters places hope on the possibility of moving past this gender gap, as long as we continue to support and seek out female-driven movies. It’s unfortunate that we purposely have to seek these things out when they should be advertised to us already. But like any habit, we have to put effort into making it happen. You don’t have to be an aspiring filmmaker to break the tradition of asking women about their attire over their talent. As an audience we have the choice of what we see and support. We, women and men, can influence the 2014 Oscars and the Oscars for years to come.

Stay tuned for more about women in film, in Samantha’s three part guest series.

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About Samantha

samanthaI spend my days surrounded by film archives through my job at the University of Washington and my graduate program at Western Washington University. I make it a priority to watch a movie at least every other day despite exhaustion. Outside of the archives and film, I enjoy comic books, baking, writing, walking, conversing, The Twilight Zone, my significant other, and of course breakfast.



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View Comment (1)
  • Okay, as a professional in the entertainment industry and a woman, I’m totally on board with the “let’s recognize more of the talented, hardworking women in our field” bit. But first we need to get more women involved in making films. All the blame for the lack of women filmmakers cannot go to the Hollywood machine. Even in indie film, where women are far better represented, they are still a huge minority (as of 2013, women represented at Sundance account for 23.9% of featured filmmakers; but only 4.4% of the filmmakers in Hollywood’s top 100 are female). Production companies’ gender-biased investments cannot account for this statistic. The fact is there simply are fewer female filmmakers, so naturally fewer of them are able to infiltrate Hollywood. I understand the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but this might be illuminating: I attended a majority-female college, yet my technical film classes were composed of a male majority not representative of the student body. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve always felt it was one of those subtle gender biases we learn as children, ie: “women can’t be scientists or engineers or do anything technical.”

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