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12th February 2019

Is gender equality close to being achieved in Hollywood?

Emily Wain argues that the inequality surrounding directors needs addressing for the film industry to progress
Is gender equality close to being achieved in Hollywood?
photo: Thomas Wolf @wikipedia

Ever since that infamous visual expression of unity through wearing all black at the Oscars in 2018, the question of gender equality has been at the forefront of much cultural debate in Hollywood, especially given the lack of celebrated female directors in the industry.

Dua Lipa, whose excellent songs have been used in films such as Bay Watch, made an acceptance speech at the Brits in 2018. Her speech began by encouraging equality within the entertainment industry, giving her speech a positive moral message unlike the other self-centred acceptance speeches of the awards night. However, she concluded her speech by claiming that women should ‘take over the world’, which surely contradicts the whole ideology of feminism and the #MeToo campaign. Women should not be aiming to become ‘better’ than men in any industry, they should aim to become equal. But, has this notion of equality since been achieved in the film industry?

If I were to ask you to think of famous directors, who would spring into your mind? Steven Spielberg? Chris Columbus? Many of us can think of numerous male directors; however, the task of thinking of female directors appears much harder. A factor which is not surprising considering that women make up just 4% of Hollywood directors.

The British female film-maker considered to be one of the most well-known is Sam Taylor Johnson, who claimed fame for producing Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015. Despite society growing more welcoming towards female directors, Sam Taylor Johnson was replaced by a male producer, Michel de Luca, who then produced Fifty Shades Darker.

This clearly shows that gaining equality is necessary for the ‘best directors’ category of various film awards. Take this years’ Golden Globe nominees for this category; all five of the nominees were male and have been for the past four years. This suggests the need for more opportunities for women to become directors to diversify this male-dominated category.

There has been significant progress towards gender equality made in the domain of acting. Award ceremonies separate the categories for ‘best actress’ and ‘best actor’ due to women having gained equal standing to men in regard to acting. A necessary solution to achieve equality in the ‘best director’ category of awards ceremonies could be for this awards category to evolve. They should include a ‘best male director’ and ‘best female director’ category, just like the already established approach to ‘best actor’ and ‘best actress’.

Having gendered director categories would ensure that progress is being made across all aspects of film-making in order to achieve gender equality in this industry.

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