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F for Film: Women in Cinema

19 July 18 words: Ash Carter

Our Screen Editor’s take on women in film, and how you can support them

In the immediate aftermath of the Weinstein allegations, and the subsequent #MeToo movement that’s dominated the cinematic landscape for the past year, the role of women in film has never been under closer scrutiny. The seemingly commonplace on-set behaviour that ranged from inappropriate to illegal is now an open secret, which is hopefully the first step on the path to making it a thing of the past. But as well as the allegations of misconduct, the debate seems to have reopened the discussion about the opportunities available to women both in front of and behind the camera, including the apparent disparity in the rates of pay for male and female actors.

Looking at the very top of the tree, in a comparison between the highest earning female star (Emma Stone, a reported $26 million in 2017) and the highest earning male counterpart (Mark Wahlberg, somehow, earning a reported $68 million in the same year), the disparity is clear. In fact, you have to go quite a way down the list, past Vin Diesel, and even more inexplicably, Adam Sandler, who both earned double the salary of Stone during the same year, before you find her male equivalent.

Opportunity is the next issue. Since the Academy Awards began in 1929, only four women have been nominated for the Best Director award, with Kathryn Bigelow being the only successful recipient for 2010’s The Hurt Locker. That’s a ratio of 88-1.

So what exactly is being done to find a solution to this problem? And will it work? For me, the answer won’t be found in simply churning out remakes of male-dominated films, like the new Ocean’s 8 reboot featuring Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, or the poorly-received Ghostbusters revisit of last year. If the point is to try and showcase female talent while proving that women are every bit as talented, creative and deserving of the level of pay offered to men, simply remaking bad films with female casts seems counterproductive.

We already know that the film industry stinks, even before Weinstein et al were unmasked. So I’d argue that the responsibility for forcing change comes down to both the media and the public. Firstly, we can all stop acting surprised when women are successful in any creative field, or only expect women to tell female stories. It’s like during an election, when our television screens are plastered with reporters asking politicians about “women’s issues”, as if the economy, war or the NHS are only of interest to men.

We can also help by putting our hands in our pockets and actually paying to see interesting, creative films made by women, like Greta Gerwig’s brilliant Lady Bird, which was released earlier this year. It’s all too easy to sign an online petition to protest about the lack of female directors, or write a snarky Facebook post about the general inequality in the film industry. The only thing you can do to make a difference, if you actually care, is support the projects that deserve to be seen.

Ash Carter is LeftLion’s Screen Editor. If you’d like to get added to his writers list, drop him a writing example at [email protected]

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