Political action doesn’t always have to take the form of marching, holding a house party or calling your local representative. You can make a bold and necessary political statement just by buying a movie ticket.
Go see Wonder Woman.
Opening this weekend, Wonder Woman is a Hollywood unicorn: a big-budget action flick centered around a strong female character and directed by a woman. If Hollywood is (it is) a "white boys' club," the action genre is like the exclusionary club’s invitation-only VIP wing.
Women get less than one-third of all speaking roles in top films, let alone top billing as the center of the story. The percentage of high-grossing films directed by women each year is in the low single-digits. The number of women who have been allowed to direct big-budget action films is basically zero percent. It was big news this week, for example, when Gina Prince Blythewood was tapped to be the very first woman of color to direct a superhero movie.
It’s 2017, people. That’s why, at the ACLU’s insistence, the federal government has reportedly charged major studios with systemic gender discrimination against directors.
Why does this matter to you?
The vast majority of film and television we consume are made by white men, telling stories about white men, from a white man’s perspective. Who gets to use their voice to create and produce our nation’s most influential cultural products in turn shape how we see ourselves, our peers and our world. Bias in Hollywood storytelling – the very stories chosen to be told, who gets to tell them and who gets to make the art itself – is a subtle yet pernicious perpetuator of cultural stereotypes, and a foundational component of how white supremacy and patriarchy remain alive and well. We don’t always feel it when we watch, but it’s there, shaping our minds, attitudes and beliefs. It helps determine whether we feel “normal” or “other,” visible or invisible or even whether we see ourselves or people like us reflected in our own culture. Researchers at USC’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, UCLA’s Bunche Center, San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film have repeatedly proven that what happens on the screen and behind the camera impacts us. And that’s especially true for our children.
So how can buying a ticket to Wonder Woman make any difference in the world?
Well, the old adage is still true: women have to work twice as hard to succeed. Despite reams of monetary and statistical data showing that consumers really do want to see stories about and made by women and people of color, studios still see these projects as a gamble, even with a proven, talented, respected and successful director like Patty Jenkins.
There is enormous additional, unwarranted and unfair pressure on projects like Wonder Woman to succeed and succeed big. If films like Wonder Woman underperform, it may be eons before we get to see something like this again. And it fuels the false perception that women can’t be “trusted” to direct big-budget films and that consumers don’t care about sexism and racism in Hollywood. So we actually have to show up and see these films.
Plus, politics aside, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Wonder Woman: it has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, for what it’s worth.
These days it’s really easy to feel powerless. But here is something you can do to help make change, effectively, and it doesn’t even require a magic lasso. In addition to seeing the film, join Women in Film’s tweet campaign. While you’re at it subscribe to Women and Hollywood and regularly follow people like Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) and April Reign (@ReignofApril), who started #OscarsSoWhite, to learn about film and television projects about and made by women. Or folks like Shadow and Act (@ShadowandAct), Danny Woodburn (@DannyWoodburn), GLAAD (@Glaad) and National Hispanic Media Coalition (@NHMC) for more on Hollywood inclusion and people of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQ people.
You have enormous power to demand inclusive storytelling in Hollywood, and you can start this weekend.