Hollywood MisogynisticAnyone who has read a biography of any of the great actresses of the silent era can easily see that the power structure within Hollywood has rested on the shoulders of men. Women have had teeth pulled, ribs taken, and sanity lost to conform to the production studios  so they could be packaged as a product.

Once the gloss had worn off a little and the actresses had become interesting, they were shelved for the next shiny young girl to come along.  There is little to suggest that things have changed dramatically since then.

MISSING: A Realistic and Rounded Female Character

If the “devil’s whore/ god’s police” dichotomy for female characters is not enough, why must everything to do with a female character hinge on her sexuality?   Unless she is the brown-haired woman in the room, in a stern suit and an equally stern expression, nearly every female character either is used as a sexual object or depicted as emotionally unhinged in films.

When Chris Carter invented the X-files, he went on record in Rollingstone magazine to say that Scully and Mulder were coworkers and nothing more.   Carter earned respect from many because there was a sexy, smart woman who was concentrating on her job more than bedding her partner. She had family and friends outside of work, which melted away as the show ages and then, when they had run out of ideas, Mulder and Scully got involved, had a baby and, after two movies, lived supposedly happily ever after.

I have read reviews of Secretariat, where movie critics have summarized the movie as “a housewife that wins a horse, who wins the Triple Crown”.  The movie itself implies the same.  So Penny Tweedy, a Wilma Flintstone-type housewife, just woke up one morning, won a horse and it was all luck and circumstance?

The reality behind the movie film is that Penny Tweedy was a horse breeder’s daughter who went through some top schools and colleges to study law (where she met her husband), and brought a lot more to the table than a tray of brownies.  Her success with the horse Secretariat, (and others that have gone through her stable) stemmed from long experience and a sharp, intelligent mind.  Apparently the other story makes a better movie.

MISSING: The strong and popular woman director

Today’s movie industry has more female producers, directors, screen writers, cinematographers – the roles women can play have also diversified.  Angelina Jolie is the latest to be both an actor and director.

Nonetheless, women have not yet had their Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or Joss Wheedon.  Where is the female director that is cool, trendy and almost universally known?  I was at a trivia night where, when the answer to “Who is England’s Prime Minister?” was revealed to be David Cameron, the person beside me wrinkled her nose and asked “Didn’t he direct Avatar?”

The Great Divide

The answer could lie in the way the media divides men and women.  Men are visionaries and leaders of the people. Women are the behind the scenes support – noble, virtuous, but do not seem to be remembered or promoted as the ground-breaking gender as a general rule.

It was 2010 before a woman won an Oscar for Best Director.  Most people cannot remember who she was: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Not only  was Bigelow the first female director to win Best Oscar  but she was also the first woman to win a Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Bigelow was also the first woman to win the National Board of Review Award for best director in 2012.

You could be forgiven for hoping that this is the sign of change and better late than never.  You could – except that in some media circles, she is still referred to as James Cameron’s ex-wife before referencing her award-winning directorial abilities.