On this page we’ll have articles and collections of links to other people’s writings about issues concerning diversity, civil rights politics and law, social equality, discrimination, the world status of women, etc. Some of these pieces will also be on the main page of the blog. You can also find older articles on these subjects in the archives of the blog.
Newer Links, June 2016:
I have been more than behind on updating any part of my blog, but I’m just going to go ahead and put up a bunch of links here of articles I found of interest:
Quote from it:
But of course there was no link between having an extra Y chromosome and extra “maleness”, because maleness is not defined by the Y chromosome. Stereotypically male traits (like aggression, even though not every XYY male in a prison was there because of violent crime) are a result of a complex interplay of nature and nurture, and the projection of the western concept of maleness onto the Y chromosome led to untold hours of research into a dead-end…
The last gasp of the sex chromosome theory came in the 1990s, with the discovery of the SRY gene on the Y chromosome – without it, the development of male gonads is impossible. It’s the only genetic tag found only in those who present as male, and is the best candidate to underpin the classic sex chromosome theory. But, as Richardson writes: “Today the SRY gene is understood as one among the many essential mammalian sex-determining factors that are involved in the genetic pathways of both testicular and ovarian determination. Mammals require cascades of gene product in proper dosages and at precise times to produce functioning male and female gonads, and researchers recognize a variety of healthy sexual phenotypes and sex determination pathways in humans.
An article about the remarkable results of sane policies in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Amanda Marcotte talks about the reality breakdown of MRA’s in her Pendragon column.
Paula Young Lee looks at the mess around the profiling arrest of young Ahmed Mohamed.
Brittany Cooper looks at the surprising and dis-enheartening blindness of actor Matt Damon and Hollywood in general.
Older But Unfortunately Still Relevant Ones:
Vikram Chandra talks about the persistent difficulty of sexism in Silicon Valley.
A nice bit of satire towards the Republicans and their policies against women being legal humans.
Depressing stats from last year about racism in the U.S.
Raven Rakia looks at the long and disastrous policies of the erroneous “broken windows” theory and how it’s helped establish a police state for black people in the U.S.
During most of the Great Hugo Campaign That Wasn’t that spun out of the “hope we get the conservative media pundits interested” mess that were the Puppies, I was really busy, some good and some bad. I would talk about the situation in various spots when I had the chance, and it certainly made for a particular type of entertainment, but I wasn’t about to try to fully hop in. And now that the Hugos have been handed out for 2015 and the Puppies are trying to figure out how to keep things going while whining about the new Star Wars tie-in novel from Chuck Wendig having a gay protagonist, I’m not inclined to hash things out further. Not specifically about them any-hoo. The more general topic of discrimination, I have some things to say, when I can get to it.
But I do have some links I collected of other people writing about the whole Hugo thing that I thought were informative and cogent over the seven months of deep, deep puppy whining and spitting. So in case you missed them, you can peruse at your leisure:
Then, there is Amal El-Mohtar‘s take on the Puppies.
And Philip Sandifer‘s angry cultural takedown of the Puppies, which got him his own nickname from them.
Sandy Ryalls on a blog at BlackGate.com commented on the heart of the conflict.
Author K. Tempest Bradford pointed out unintended consequences from the Puppies’ assault on the Hugos.
Author Jim C. Hines took a close look at what the Puppies were actually saying.
M.D. Laclan at FantasyFaction.com looks at the cultural timeline and how both past and future SF does not fit the Puppies’ narrative.
Author and screenwriter David Mack offers a detailed analysis of why Puppy nominee and participant Amanda Green’s essay on his Star Trek novel that she put in her Hugo Fan Writer nominee packet is full of hot air. (This fits with what Green is now trying to do with Chuck Wendig and what the Puppies tried to claim about Star Trek in general.)
Author Tobias Bucknell explains why the image of SFF fandom as a safe place free of attacks like the Puppies’ was always a myth.
Kevin Standlee explains how the Puppies’ mercantile demands show they don’t understand the nature of the Hugo Awards at all.
Miles Schneiderman covered the whole debacle for YesMagazine.org.
Cartoonist and writer Barry Deutsch looks at the up-coming Sad Puppies IVfor next year and explains why it’s still a voting slate attempt.
And writer and game designer Alexandra Erin wrote several very intelligent pieces about the Puppies and also provided some brilliant satire during the whole ordeal:
If you do wade through all that, do not despair in the end. The Hugo Awards are fine. And fandom isn’t any more split than it was before. It’s just now those divisions are a bit more out in the open, with the aid of Internet screaming. That’s not, necessarily, a bad thing, although it makes it a little tricky for the publishers. But they could use some shaking up, frankly. They are the ones who have produced a SFF field that is 90% white people, mostly writing about white people.
So it’s been a bit hectic. The Hugo Awards drama I’ve commented some on at Whatever and SFFWorld, and then had to re-think some of it as weirder and weirder information keeps coming into it. So I’ll probably post some links to articles about it in the Social Equality section by others, but otherwise, I’m moving on. When things get more equal in society, there will be this sort of blow-up reaction from some.
As expected, I did miss at least one woman fronted action film for 2015 —Survivor, starring Milla Jovovich, so we do get some of her despite the next Resident Evil film’s schedule delay. It’s a spy thriller where Milla is a Foreign Service Officer in London who has to go on the run and deal with Pierce Brosnan’s baddie. It’ll be hitting movie theaters in the beginning of June. Angela Bassett is in it too. Looks like a lot of action:
Also missed, a prestigious bio pic, Suffragette, about the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., and a thriller based on the novel by Laura Lippman calledEvery Secret Thing, starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning.
The first, sleepier part of 2015 had a hit with spunky version Cinderella (not unexpected,) with $494+ million box office so far, the animated Home with $326+ million, and Insurgent, #2 in the Divergent franchise, taking in over $272 million. Not a bad start, and women have been helping the more ensemble giant action pictures too, such as Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Did I see any of those? Only Age of Ultron so far. I’ll probably see most of the others later. I’ll give an Avengers #2 review in a bit.
Also, books! What? Stop laughing. Really, I’m going to talk about some books this week, I swear.
In this Part 2 of Women in Film, we are moving on from 2014 to our new year2015.
2015 is going to be the year of big returning franchises. Some of the biggest of the biggest are set to hit from now in April through December this year: James Bond dusts himself off, a re-booted Mad Max, a new Jurassic Park, an alternate timeline (reboot) Terminator, Mission: Impossible V, and the big daddy of them all, the return of Star Wars, the final chapters, now that Disney bought out George Lucas. All of them are male-centric, and added to them are the starting films in Marvel’s multi-studio plan for world domination: Avengers 2, Ant-Man and a reboot of the Fantastic Four in the ancillary Marvel mutant-based universe owned by 20th Century Fox. Marvel has plans for the ladies (see below,) but they don’t really start this year (unless you count the wonderful show Agent Carter on television.)
So it doesn’t look like an ideal year for women film stars and I’m not going to pretend it will be a female showcase, but it’s not going to be a down-tread either. It’s kind of interesting what they’re doing. The new Bond film, Spectre, has been playing up its women more than usual – Monica Bellucci especially, and Lea Seydoux and Stephanie Sigman; and Mad Max: Fury Road has gone to enormous trouble to market having Charlize Theron kicking ass as a one-armed cyborg commander, with a bevy of young actresses playing major roles: Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and Megan Gale. The Terminator franchise knows a warrior Sarah Connor goes over better, so in their new alternate timeline restart, Terminator Genisys, that’s what we’re getting with Emilia Clarke, backed by a possible android-playing Sandrine Holt.
Jurassic World has thrown their marketing focus understandably on having red hot Chris Pratt star, but the film is also featuring Bryce Dallas Howard in the co-star role, along with Judy Greer, Katie McGrath, and Lauren Lapkus.Mission: Impossible V returns, having disappointedly dumped Paula Patton’s very interesting character from the last movie (she’s off doing a t.v. series now,) but has substituted in up and comer Rebecca Ferguson. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been very closed-mouthed about their cast, but we do know that Carrie Fisher returns as Princess Leia and that Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o and Maisie Richardson-Sellers have major roles. And Furious 7 also returns this week, with its multi-ethnic cast in which Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky, Ronda Rousey, and Nathalie Emmanuel play central roles, an aspect that they always market.
Moving to the female-led action films, so far this year, in what is considered the “dead” period at the start of the season, we’ve had Jennifer Lopez produce and star in the soapy psychological thriller The Boy Next Door, with a tiny budget that produced a solid hit. Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis, from the Wachowski siblings, was yanked from the summer blockbuster roster last year and dumped into February. While the movie is a bit of a hot mess, it made more sense than Prometheus and was a lot of fun. Its big budget special effects meant it wasn’t likely to be a hit, given the circumstances, but it’s breaking even and still doing world box office.
The big female-led action movie of the year will again be Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, the last film in the hit franchise. As such, and coming out around Thanksgiving a month before Star Wars, it’s likely to do pretty big. Also just coming out now is the sequel to Divergent, called The Divergent Series: Insurgent, with Shailene Woodley, which has already shot past its production budget in a week and is well on its way to being another big hit for that series. Disney is continuing to monetize its park rides with Tomorrowland, a big budget special effects sci-fi movie for the summer, starring Britt Robertson, who gets helped by George Clooney in saving an alternate world from destruction.
Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig again team up in May to produce and McCarthy to star in Spy, a comic spy thriller in which McCarthy plays a pencil-pusher analyst who has to take on a field agent role, backed by Rose Byrne, Jason Stratham and Jude Law. If successful, it puts McCarthy on a three year winning streak. Reese Witherspoon is also doing more producing and starring with Sofia Vergara in a comic buddy action film, Hot Pursuit, in which Witherspoon plays a cop protecting Vergara’s witness in a drug case.
Natalie Portman stars in Jane Got a Gun, a western about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband. And we have a whole passel of women-led thrillers: Selma Hayak produces and stars in a quirky film about a woman staving off assassins in Everly. Halle Berry seeks her stolen son in the film Kidnap. Emily Blunt continues her upward moves by starring in Sicario, as an FBI agent working with the CIA to take down a cartel. Viola Davis produced and stars in with Jennifer Lopez again the revenge thriller, Lila & Eve, in which two mothers go after the killers of their children. Olivia Wilde, Hailee Steinfeld and Nicole Beharie play three women surviving attacks by soldiers in The Keeping Room. Sanaa Lathan stars in the psychological stalker thriller The Perfect Guy, and Margot Robbie returns in the sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah, only very loosely based on the 1970’s novel.
Further in the sci-fi area, Guillermo del Toro will bring out his new horror fantasy Crimson Peak, starring Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain. Blake Lively plays an immortal woman hiding from discovery in the film The Age of Adaline. Addison Timlin plays the unwitting woman of interest to two fallen angels in Fallen. And Kaya Scodelario stars as the young artist who must decide whether to betray her king, Louis the XIV, when a mer-woman is captured and brought to court in the adaptation of the Vonda N. McIntyre’s alternate history novel, The Moon and the Sun.
In the kids and teens area, the movies we know so far include just out animatedHome, in which Rhianna voices a young girl dealing with aliens, a movie which has already gone over $100 million in its first weekend; and Jem and the Holograms, a live action adventure film based on the old animated music cartoon series, starring Aubrey Peeples as rocker Jem with a female band. Pixar is doing an interesting animated one for them – Inside Out, in which the inner emotions of a young tween, led by Amy Poehler as Joy, have to work difficult odds in the brain to help their person.
Disney, for their part, intends to continue live action versions of its animated classics. Out now is Cinderella, starring Lily James, (and featuring a new Frozenshort film as well.) While the film isn’t as much of a diversion from the original animated movie as Malificent was, it does offer a moderately spunky Cinderella and a woman-centered cast, and in a couple of weeks, has made over $339 million in world box office. (Disney is bringing out the live action version ofBeauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, in 2016.) I’m not sure that this process acutely helps actresses into action starring roles, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, and having the kids and musical adventure area a solid platform for women film stars does give them some new opportunities.
Horror, with its lower budgets, continues to be a place where women also frequently get to star or be heavily featured. 2015 will offer us It Follows, Out of the Dark, Nightlight, Unfriended, Before I Wake, Insidious: Chapter 3, Sinister 2, The Visit, The Disappointments Room, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, and Rings, the third movie in the mega The Ring franchise.
Outside of the action sphere, women are also managing to lead in high profile and decently budgeted dramas, comedies and a number of biographies. 2015 already brought us the kind-of erotic love story adapted from the bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. With a medium budget, and directed and written by women, the film has grossed over $546 million and definitely made a star out of actress Dakota Johnson.
The year will also bring us Sisters, a sort of action comedy starring and produced by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer’s much anticipated comedy Trainwreck, the sequel musical comedy Pitch Perfect 2 starring Anna Kendrick, Queen of the Desert in which Nicole Kidman plays the notorious Gertrude Bell, and Anne Hathaway will star in The Intern, about a woman at a fashion website. The Duff, a teen comedy starring Mae Whitman, on a small budget has made over $30 million. The female centered sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has also been out for a couple of weeks and already brought in over $67 million.
Also up this year, a bio film of Effie Gray; Far From the Maddening Crowd starring Carey Mulligan and adapted from the Thomas Hardy novel; Meryl Streep rocking a comedy as a former rock star who returns to reconcile with her family in Ricki and the Flash; Maggie Smith playing a homeless woman in The Lady in the Van; Helen Mirren in the biographical drama The Woman in Gold; director Maya Forbes’ autobiographical film of her childhood in Infinitely Polar Bear; and a bio film of author Mary Shelley called Mary Shelley’s Monster. Alison Brie will star with Jason Sudeikis in the comedySleeping with Other People; Americanah, a much buzzed about film about Nigerian immigrants, will feature Lupita Nyong’o; and Angelina Jolie will direct, write and star in with Brad Pitt the couple drama By the Sea.
Of course, those women-led projects, some of which will rake in nice box office or Oscar nominations possibly, won’t have the status and impact granted to the action films in Hollywood, and the action films do remain majority male led (and male directed.) Actresses will, however, continue to do trickle, trickle efforts in major, often kick-ass roles in the action movies this year, including: Ex-Machina, Cymbeline, Tracers, San Andreas 3D, Poltergeist (reboot,)Pan, Pixels, The Martian, Self/Less, Masterminds, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (remake,) Regression, No Escape, Triple Nine, The Maze Runner 2: The Scorch Trials, Frankenstein, London Has Fallen, Vacation, Goosebumps, The Last Witch Hunter, The Secret in Their Eyes, Autobahn, Midnight Special, Point Break (reboot,) Project Almanac, The Day of the Triffids, and Spooks: The Greater Good. Already action hits this year include the children’s adaptation Paddington, featuring Nicole Kidman as the female villain, a trend that continues; con artist thriller Focus, featuring Margot Robbie (who is having a busy time bouncing up to the A-list;) and fantasy YA adaptation Seventh Son, with Julianne Moore taking the female villain role.
And then there are the comic book movies, which have dominated the Hollywood scene this past decade, even when they’ve flopped. The comic empires themselves, while male dominated, have offered opportunities for many great women characters. The movie adaptations have of course been way more cautious (and probably again producer status conscious,) keeping female involvement secondary and limited. That may or may not be changing, but the up-coming schedules of the two big comics companies – Marvel and DC Comics – show a little more daring towards the other half of the population, at least on the theory of using cross-series marketing.
Marvel has been more successful, licensing two franchises – Spider-Man and mutants – to different studios with varying degrees of success before forming their own studio and creating an interlocking set of films in maybe the most ambitious franchise attempt of all time. Marvel managed to make a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man into the main franchise fold. This unfortunately delayed other films in their schedule, but they still plan to bring out a Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) film in 2018, (as well as a Black Panther film the same year.)
While Captain Marvel isn’t cast yet, she may be making an appearance in some of the other Marvel movies before her solo gig. There won’t be a Black Widow movie (because the Marvel people are idiots and possibly because Scarlett Johansson annoyed them by being pregnant during the shooting of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,) but the character will be making appearances in some of the up-coming movies, as will the small stable of female characters Marvel has been building. This year, Avengers 2 will offer us Black Widow, Maria Hill and Peggy Carter as returning characters, and bring in Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch.Ant-Man will offer us Evangeline Lily as a character who may become the Wasp or the villain Red Queen, as well as another Peggy Carter appearance and supporting performances from Judy Greer and Lyndsi LaRose. The mutant franchise of Marvel’s also offers us a new Sue Storm in the rebooted Fantastic Four, played by Kate Mara.
DC Comics is essentially now following Marvel’s playbook. Which means we finally get a Wonder Woman movie in 2017 – ahead of Marvel, no less. Before getting her own film, Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, will appear in the kick-off film Batman vs. Superman, due out in 2016, and will be in theJustice League movie set for later in 2017. Other female characters are scheduled to appear in DC movies like Suicide Squad, in which the villains become heroes of sorts. Margot Robbie, the It Woman of the moment, will play fan favorite Harley Quinn, and Viola Davis, also busy in both film and t.v., will co-star. Many of the other roles aren’t quite known yet, and DC’s casts are whiter overall, but the sheer fact that they finally decided to launch Wonder Womanis practically a miracle. It’s one that we have to wait for, though, as DC has no movies for 2015, concentrating instead on its (second or third) alternate universe on television with multiple shows (one of which will be a team show.)
All of this makes 2015 fun for having female movie stars capture screen time, but can it move the needle for women getting more than 17, 18 percent of the main film roles? With fewer romantic comedies coming out, probably not. But the continued push of women in the bigger budget and mid-budget action flicks is bearing fruit. And 2016, with a female Ghostbusters cast, movies in theResident Evil and Underworld franchises, Noomi Rapace in Prometheus 2, young star Shailene Woodley taking on yet another dystopian franchise inAllegiant, Chloë Grace Moretz doing her own dystopia in The 5th Wave, the return of Alice in Wonderland 2: Through the Looking Glass with Mia Wasikowska, etc., means that actresses are getting a lot more attention and establishing themselves as go-to stars for action pictures. We have a crop of young movie stars rapidly making a name for themselves jumping off of buildings, and a number of older actresses producing their own action vehicles and getting the scheming villain roles that used to automatically go to the male actors. We have not gone backwards, and so it will be interesting to see what is going to happen over the next five years. Especially as the summer season now starts at the beginning of April and may not let up until next January. So strap yourselves in, because Furious 7 is a launch this weekend:
It’s time again for Women In Film, where we look at blockbusters, action films of all types and big buzz films to see how actresses are doing in terms of prominence, box office moolah, and improving the state of female movie stars in the business. In this part, Part 1, we’ll be looking back at the films in 2014 to see what happened, and in Part 2, we’ll look ahead at what’s playing and up-coming in 2015 that we know about so far. *
This analysis of mine has been going on since 2012, which media up-played as the year of the woman in film, because there were quite a few movies that year headed by women, including big action ones. As we know, part of that media coverage was simply hype – studies show that women are still hugely behind in grabbing major roles, and behind the camera it’s even worse, except for maybe producers. But it was also a valid reflection of shifts due to the trickle, trickleprogress of getting Hollywood to accept and happily exploit the box office power of women, to an audience that largely doesn’t really care if it’s a man or a woman, (or even another gender,) helming a film.
The year 2014 was, like 2013, a year mainly of sequels, old action franchises and superhero films, with Marvel dominating again (more on that later,) none of which tend to favor women as leads. So it wasn’t a ground-breaking year for actresses, like 2012, but it was a consolidating year, which did confirm that women can bring the box office themselves and are increasingly useful in ensemble action films. The bulkhead that was established still remains, with some interesting trends shaping for up-coming years.
Women had high impact roles in many successful action films this last year in which they weren’t the leads. In the superhero arena, Marvel again made good use of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in the hit Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, and employed go-to geek movie star Zoe Saldana and Doctor Who favorite Karen Gillan, plus a cameo from Glen Close, in the big summer domestic winner, Guardians of the Galaxy. In their ancillary franchises, we had Emma Stone in Amazing Spiderman 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past making key use of Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page.
Women were front and center in most of the big sequels: 300: Rise of an Empire, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fast and Furious 7, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, The Purge 2: Anarchy, Horrible Bosses 2, Muppets Most Wanted, Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb, and the biggest movies globally: Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. They also had critical leading roles in hits Gone Girl, Interstellar, Hercules, Monuments Men, Non-Stop, The Equalizer, The Maze Runner, the rebooted Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, Noah, The Imitation Game, Selma, Neighbors, The Nut Job, Dracula Untold, Into the Storm, Blended, The Boxtrolls, and The Book of Life, and Emily Blunt bluntly stole hit sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow from Tom Cruise.
But while women have become an ubiquitous if not always powerful component of the big action films, playing more than just “the Girl,” how about when they lead the movies? The proven player this year again was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, the next to last installment of the mega-franchise, starring red hot Jennifer Lawrence. Hunger Games 3 won the U.S. domestic box office for the year, and is still making the rounds of foreign box office for over $751 million worldwide so far. That didn’t make the billion club or yet beat installment #2 of the franchise, Catching Fire, but it definitely made its makers happy and sets the stage for the last film in the story to be quite huge.
The other big female led movie of the year was Disney’s Malificent, a live action alternate version of their animated film Sleeping Beauty, showing the cursing fairy’s side of the story. Starring Angelina Jolie — because who else could have done it that perfectly — Malificent was a big budget film that has taken in nearly $760 million in world box office and will live on television forever probably. (Jolie also got her director on in 2014, with her third film Unbroken, the war bio of Olympian Louis Zamperini, a modestly budgeted action picture that has earned over $160 million and is still opening globally.)
Divergent, considered to be The Hunger Games’ little sister of sorts, was put out as a mid-budget film in the relatively quiet period of March, starring Shailene Woodley. Other recent YA series adaptations had done only middling, and the female led The Vampire Academy, out just before Divergent, had flopped, but Divergent’s high action dystopia brought in over $288 million. Another YA adaptation with a female lead, If I Stay, brought in over $78 million on a miniscule budget, and the buzzy YA romantic drama, The Fault in Our Stars, took in over $305 million on only a $12 million budget.
The surprise hit of the year, however, turned out to be a film called Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. The mid-budget, largely under the radar sci-fi martial arts thriller ended up with world box office of over $458 million, cementing Johansson’s rep as a star in action films and praised indies. It also meant more interest in inexpensive action flicks featuring a female protagonist, a house built by the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises and recent smaller budget successes like Colombiana and this year’s In the Blood.
Melissa McCarthy continued her streak by producing and starring in the comedy caper picture Tammy, with Susan Sarandon, which took in over $100 million on a small budget. At this point, McCarthy has become almost a franchise unto herself with an enviable track record. The revenge comedy The Other Woman, featuring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton, also did well, ringing up almost $200 million on a mid-level budget. Other lower budget comedy adventures also focused on women – Moms’ Night Out, The Single Mom’s Club, Walk of Shame, etc. Call it the Bridesmaids’ legacy, but the increase in these films indicates that Hollywood is more willing to keep panning for gold with female-led stories in this part of the pool.
Animated and children’s movies were more male-centered this year, but the alternate version of the musical Annie featuring young star Quvenzhane Wallis was a modest hit with over $132 million in box office and holiday film standing. Horror films continue to be a good field for women to get the lead, even if the budgets are usually small: spin-off Annabelle pulled in a whopping $255 million plus on a tiny budget, Ouija took in over $99 million, and the trippy little film Oculus, starring Karen Gillan again, did a successful $44 million on a $5 million budget.
Neither Oscar contender bio movie Wild, starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon, or Australia’s slightly similar bio Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska, had big budgets or did large box office, but both did well and got a lot of media attention, signalling an increasing interest in Hollywood of women as biographical subjects, including adventures. Into the Woods is an ensemble fantasy musical adaptation with a decent dollop of action, but the film was dominated by women, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick, and it took in over $172 million on a mid-sized budget.
Recent study results were bemoaned in the media about how 2014 had fewer films with a female protagonist than in 2002, twelve years ago. It’s good that this is getting media coverage, as it pounds home to Hollywood (as part of trickle, trickle,) that they are under-using their talent pool and under-serving their audience. It is worth taking a look at, however, what sort of films had the female protagonists in 2002. Here’s a hint: it largely wasn’t the big budget action films.
2002 did see the launch of the influential Resident Evil franchise, starring and co-produced by Mila Jovanovich with her husband, which followed in the wake of Jolie’s Tomb Raider the year before. But at that time, Resident Evil was a low mid-budget, martial arts “B” movie zombie thriller based on a video game with international funding. It was the sort of film expected to do most of its money on DVD and a tie-in game unit, rather than as well as it did. And there was also action comedy Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock as a federal agent who can only solve her case and get a guy by embracing dresses and make-up. That movie did cement Bullock’s A-list status, and she was also a producer on the film. And there was The Powerpuff Girls in animation. That was about it.
That’s not to say that women led action movies didn’t get made in the early oughts (Underworld would launch the next year, etc.,) and women did supporting roles in big action movies and sometimes those involved kicking ass. But the real presence of women as protagonists in 2002 was in romantic comedies – women’s movies, chick flicks, mid to low budget films believed to interest only a niche female audience. Movies like Sweet Home Alabama, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Maid in Manhattan, The Sweetest Thing, Crossroads, Blue Crush and Bullock again in Two Weeks’ Notice gave us a fair number of female protagonists that year, (and some opportunities for female directors,) but did not give female stars a lot of clout in the major action films and summer tent poles.
So again, shifts in the landscape of 2014 look promising. Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore confirmed their status as beloved geniuses who can do action roles as needed. Angelina Jolie is building an empire, while Melissa McCarthy is developing the same sort of producing vehicle shop as male comic stars like Will Farrell and Adam Sandler. Reese Witherspoon is also working the acting/producing ropes not only with Wild, but by producing buzzy hit Gone Girl.
Jennifer Lawrence confirmed her A-list status and role as Jolie’s heir. Emily Blunt had a banner year to end up on at least the A- list, and Shailene Woodley added herself to the pool of bright young rising female stars like Emma Stone and Anna Kendrick with two buzzy and successful films (even if she doesn’t understand what feminism is.) Cameron Diaz suffered one flop, Sex Tape, but her other film’s success means she can still open films as a name. Scarlett Johansson has now established that she also can open action films as well as being immensely popular in a big franchise. And Zoe Saldana has become the leading sci-fi utility star, playing key roles in giant franchises – Avatar, Star Trek, and now Marvel’s Guardians, as well as providing a voice in the animated The Book of Life, and headlining smaller thrillers like Colombiana successfully.
And while she isn’t an actress, Ava DuVernay’s directing of the wonderful historical film Selma took trickle, trickle to a new art form. To no one’s surprise, she and largely her film were snubbed by the awards run by white old guys. (After all, 12 Years a Slave had done well the year before and that’s enough of a nod for the black people for awhile as the powers running Hollywood see it.) But that a mid-budget biography about black people and the civil rights movement directed by a black woman did well and was widely covered by media, starts to carve a potential path for the more marginalized folks in the business, (at least providing visible role models,) and highlights what is hopefully a new push of female producers and directors in Hollywood. (Though we won’t count our chickens early.)
So once again, 2014 shows clearly that the female movie star isn’t dead nor blocked from the big films that can lead to big paydays and attention. And the indications are that women can and are playing a much bigger role in action films than they got to do in the early oughts. In the end, 2014 wasn’t a banner year, but it was a powered year at minimum. Can the actresses expand that bulkhead in the wild developments of 2015 and beyond? That is going to be the interesting question, and I will attempt to examine it in Part 2.
*Movies do get pushed around and delayed or pulled, so a lot of the 2015 coverage will be subject to change.
I’m in the soup, but this weekend, I thought this article by Julie Zeilinger for Identities.Mic on female directors of color who are doing and will be doing interesting work was worth bringing to attention. Looking forward to the film adaptation of On Beauty by Zadie Smith.
It’s time again for articles concerning diversity and discrimination that I found interesting last year.
Vikram Chandra wrote an interesting article for Wired about sexism factors in Silicon Valley, U.S. versus sexism factors in India’s tech industry. It shows how notions of gender are cultural and can create different forms of discrimination and inequality.
Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story looks at the ludicrous freakout by some over California’s policy change to a standard of sexual consent at its state universities and colleges. It again looks at how hard it is for people to wrap their heads around the idea that human beings own their own bodies and therefore get to give permission for who touches them sexually and how, especially when it comes to women. When there is progress made on this and other basic civil rights in law and society, the immediate claim is that the people whose rights are being supported will be vindictive, threatening destructors who will rend the very nature of society, democracy, free speech, take your pick. So put that discrimination back right this minute! As always, the fact that some people might have to alter their behavior a little bit to give others equal rights is considered way more important a problem than the actual equal rights.
McSweeney’s offers up a satiric bit called “The Open Letter to the Tiny White Man the Republican Party Has Sent to Live in My Pants.” Which also touches on the topic of women actually owning their own bodies, and getting to decide what is done to it sexually and medically and how they will live their lives.
Attorney Mary Adkins at Slate.com looks at the sexual harassment and assault of naked photos of women and girls being posted on Twitter (and elsewhere on the Net,) without their consent, and the problem with Twitter’s inability to properly enact policy on its large and contentious network.
And speaking of Twitter, Miri Mogilevsky at The Daily Dot did a nice piece talking about how This Week in Blackness‘ Elon James White created a very funny Twitter hashtag called #DudesGreetingDudes. The hashtag campaign is to point out the hypocrisy of those whining over complaints about catcalling and sexual harassment on the street. It proposes that if guys just want to say hi to others and be friendly, that they greet guys on the street the same way they are greeting women on the street. There’s also a nice videotape made re the hashtag, showing this in action:
Chris Sims at Comics Alliance looked at the problem with giant San Diego Comic Con’s attempt to hide on the issue of con harassment, in the belief that this will keep people from thinking that harassment ever happens there, versus cons that deal with the issue realistically. SDCC is so big now that it is in many ways insulated from worrying about audience desertion, as long as Hollywood still loves it. But one serious mishap and lawsuits is an ever present threat at that sort of pretense. With other big cons like New York Comic Con stepping up to have a workable, prominent and advocated harassment policy to its betterment, San Diego is going to have to change its stance soon. But this article shows h0w hard it is to root out institutionalized discrimination at these events so that practical policies can be enacted and enforced.
Also regarding conventions, author K. Tempest Bradford talked about some of the not-fun discriminations that came up at Readercon last year and at other cons for non-white, straight, etc. authors. It shows how this stuff crops up all the time in many different ways that create discrimination.
And further on that theme, Hannah Giorgis at The Soapbox talks about the#WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag campaign and why diversity issues are so critical in children’s publishing.
And last for now, a podcast at Latino USA in which authors N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, and Nalo Hopkinson discuss diversity in geekdom and diversity issues in fiction publishing.
Back last summer, Lightspeed Magazine did a very cool issue of the magazine called “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” featuring stories from women SF writers and a lot of articles about women in science fiction and the issues female writers and fans face in the field. I meant to feature it at the time, but life happened. You can still check it out at the link above. There’s also a lovely Twitter feed “article” — becoming a new art form that — from SFF writerSeanan McGuire about what the issue of the magazine means to her as writer and fan.
Of course not everybody was able to get into the spirit of the thing. Old fashioned sexist Dave Truesdale, who apparently runs a site called Tangent Online, whined about the issue’s existence and assembled panels of others to “review” the issue’s non-fiction articles by whining about their existence. This irked a number of people into writing very fun articles about the issue and that critiquing site’s usual sexist commentary on the very idea of it, the kind of rhetoric heard all the way back by Mary Shelley when she published Frankenstein. Amal El Mohtar, E. Catherine Tobler, John O’Neill of Black Gate Magazine, andRachel Acks were the ones I found the most astute and Natalie Luhrs was both astute and offers up interesting related links.
On a similar front of encouragement and documenting discrimination, Gail Simone did a great piece for women creators in comics and women creators in general. My favorite quote from it:
“I have many times seen advice given to women that essentially equals, “smile and don’t upset anyone.” This is the world’s worst advice, and the people who say that to you? Make no mistake. They are the enemy, regardless of gender. Don’t even bother to engage them, just go around them as they try to grab your legs and pull you down.”
Bestselling fantasy author Carrie Vaughn also does a great piece about writing “tough” female characters and the stereotypes we socially hold about them.
And at Vox.com, Susannah Locke did a fascinating interview with scientist Sarah Richardson, author of the book Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome. The book tackles the actual facts about our biological sex regarding our DNA and Richardson talks about the social biases about gender that have skewed biological research and had to be deconstructed:
“Our biological theories of sex are deeply intertwined with our cultural theories of sex and gender.”
Good stuff, so check out what interests you.