This isn’t really a movie review.

I sometimes wonder why sooo many crappy awful movies for dudes get made. And then I came across statistics – via Traction – that in 2008:

  • Women comprised only 16% of all directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films (a decline of 3% since 2001 and of 1% since 2007).
  • Only 9% of directors were women – no change since 1998
  • 22% of the films released in 2008 employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors. No films failed to employ a man in at least one of these roles.
  • 90% of the films had no female directors.
  • 43% of the films had no female producers.
  • 79% of the films had no female editors.
  • 96% of the films had no female cinematographers.

If you take a moment to think about what that means – that the vision behind the movies, how things are interpreted, how things are portrayed, how our attention is directed, how a story is cut, how a story is told, who the protagonist is, who we should care about, who we should forgive, all of it is predominantly controlled by the male perspective – it’s a bit overwhelming.

It seems beneficial to remind ourselves that as self-congratulatory as we can be about women’s progress, we started at such a position of disadvantage that we’re still not even close.  Actually, there was an article in Jezebel back in August that got this topic stewing around in my head.

In an article about an NY Times scan of the big studio schedules by Michael Cieply, they highlight one of his paragraphs trying to explain the disproportionate dominance of male directors.

In one respect, homogeneity among its film directors might actually help Hollywood in a business sense. Studio films, year in and year out, continue to pull in crowds worldwide at least in part because they look, sound and feel like what has gone before.

What can you say to that? I’ve been under the impression that Hollywood has actually not been pulling in the box office numbers they need to in order to sustain their business model, but whatever. It also completely ignores how movies influence our culture at large, and how alienating it is for people to rarely see accurate representations of their lives in film. That was one theme that came up in The Celluloid Closet in regard to queer representation in film – that there were almost no representations of real queer lives in film (this was in 1995ish).

So when we went to Whip It last night, I was thinking about all of this and paying attention to how the movie showed women’s bodies, lives, sexualities, and humor in a female-directed, female-written film. I’m not saying that the movie was some groundbreaking work of feminism – it was a fluffy, feel-good, entertaining movie – but the representation of these different aspects that I noted were actually significantly different from other mainstream films I’ve seen recently.

  • The skating scenes, of which there were many, were striking in that they focused on the competition, athleticism, brutality, and sexiness of roller derby – as opposed to focusing just on the sexiness and turning the female characters into playboy versions of roller derby girls
  • It is really nice to see the quirky, female character as protagonist – the character that gets to develop and discover aspects of herself and become a more complete person – rather than as the girlfriend of and foil for male protagonist development
  • Speaking of that, it’s also nice that though the romantic relationship had an impact on the main character, it wasn’t the core of the female protagonist’s transformation. I hate how hugely rare that is, but it’s refreshing to see
  • I just really liked the range of female characters, the ways the different ages of the female characters contributed to friendships and relationships and their interactions with each other

What I want: more movies with female protagonists, written/directed by women. Let’s just balance things out.