Last night I watched the 86th annual academy awards – all 500 hours of it. From Lupita Nyong’o rocking it, Cinderella style, on the red carpet to John Travolta enthusiastically introducing Adele Dazeem. All in all, I was entertained, which is, I suppose, is the ultimate goal of an award show, so I chalk it up to a win.
The part that has stuck with me the most is Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech after her win for Best Actress in “Blue Jasmine:”
Blanchett won pretty much everything else this award season, so the win itself wasn’t surprising. But her speech!
As she did earlier that evening, Blanchett made the point that “female films with women at the center” aren’t “niche experiences” and can actually be widely viewed and profitable. Amen to that! It irks me to no end when “women’s interests” or “women’s stories” are cast as “special interests,” but a story centering on a man is cast as appealing to everyone. Like dude is the default setting for person.
It’s sexist, which in and of itself is annoying, but it also allows for the kind of lazy story telling that creates a plethora of female flat characters. A lot of movies would have been a hell of a lot more interesting if anybody had bothered to focus on developing something in the stock female characters aside from their boobs.
“Blue Jasmine” was written and directed by Woody Allen and produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson. That means 75% of people at the helm of the movie were dudes. This is not at all unusual. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film: “Women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films of 2013. This figure represents a decrease of two percentage points from 2012.”
Blanchett’s overarching point? The issue isn’t that “people aren’t interested in movies centering on women,” it’s that “people believe people aren’t interested in movies centering on women.” Given the demographics of the decision makers in the film industry, that’s not so surprising.