I recently watched the documentary series, MAKERS, which focuses on the achievements of women from varied backgrounds and professions. After watching the Women in Hollywood episode, however, this nagging feeling of dissatisfaction began. It gnawed away in the background until I began preparing to write this article.
Why did I feel so dissatisfied after watching this documentary? It was certainly not with the presentation itself. It was through the realization that women’s roles as capable leaders, and contributors, in Hollywood, seem to have been purposely undermined and subverted, since it’s inception. The episode might have been better called, Women Obscured by Hollywood.
For example, I was appalled to discover that there was a phenomenal female director at the dawn of Hollywood, whose name is NEVER mentioned anywhere, at any time. She wore men’s suits, directed blockbusters, and even invented audio devices which are still used on film sets worldwide to this day. Then I FORGOT her name, and had to dig through the internet to find it again – only to unveil YET ANOTHER female filmmaking pioneer. She was almost similar in accomplishments and significance to the industry as a whole – and yet, you guessed it, I’d NEVER heard of her in my entire life. Referred to as “the Mark Zuckerberg of her time” she was “so ahead of her time… she even made a movie called, In The Year 2000, When Women Are in Charge.”
Yet, skipping forward to 2015, I feel as though I’ve just stepped directly out of a time machine – but not moved anywhere. Women are still “pioneering” and “forging ahead” in a firmly, “male-dominated” industry. No matter the accolades, accomplishments, or breakthroughs women have made, and continue to make, this dialogue seems to be on automatic repeat throughout industry circles:
“Can they hack it?”
“Are they good for the bottom line?”
“Men are less risky…”
Blah blah blah Blah BLAH.
Yes, I am sick of it – because like most human-beings, I have experienced the power of story-telling. You repeat a story enough times, you are more likely to believe it – and accept it as the truth. You hear other people repeating it, and now it is undeniably a fact. Right?
For this reason, while it is important to be aware of the facts, I am up to gills with repeating the rhetoric about “male-domination,” and the negative statistics of women’s employment rates within the industry. Why? Because even women are now repeating this to a younger, more impressionable generation.
Pardon my French, but fuck that.
Because I am witnessing a much different Hollywood. One where women are performing every role imaginable in creating a body of work that is the very fabric of our industry’s future. Therefore, it is not outside the realm of fact if we choose to instead affirm more frequently that women are actually a valued and vital part of the establishment here in Hollywood.
We have been here since day one, and perhaps the more we talk about that, the more others will repeat that story. Hollywood simply could not have enjoyed such a wildly successful and rich history without the many contributions of all the women who have worked here all along. In fact, through the collective power of crowdfunding, we are now demanding such depictions to help to empower future generations of female entertainment professionals.
I was lucky enough to grow up in an era after the pioneers had cleared and even paved the path through Hollywood, providing solid examples of what is possible. I have witnessed countless people, who happened to be women, act as extraordinary leaders within an industry I love. I have never thought of them as “women” leaders, or “women” filmmakers. What I mean to say is, they were simply doing it, without any doubt in my mind as to their abilities or qualifications. And that has given me the belief that any person, man or woman, regardless of any story we may tell ourselves, can work within Hollywood at every level imaginable – and beyond.
I think it is best summarized in this quote by Marti Noxon:
On that note, I highly recommend that episode of MAKERS. It filled me with so much encouragement, passion, and rage about the aforementioned forgotten pioneers, that I know that documentary series is not only necessary, but may form the base for on-going dialogue.
What are your thoughts? How can we support each other in moving out of the shadows of the old stories to stake our rightful claim as the highly valued industry members we are? Please leave a comment. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter and share with a friend.
MAKERS: The largest video collection of women’s stories, Women in Hollywood http://www.makers.com/
“Must-See ‘Makers’ Tackles ‘Women in Hollywood’,” Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood, 10/7/14)
“GO ASK ALICE: The First Woman Behind a Camera, Now Forgotten”, Adrienne Vogt (The Daily Beast – 8/21/13) http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/20/alice-guy-blach-hollywood-s-female-pioneer.html
Sophisticated: The Hollywood Story of Miss Dorothy Arzner, http://dorothyarznermovie.com/