“ Nobody’s to blame for the situation in Hollywood. But you can either sit around and talk about how bad it is, or you can do something about it”. Reese Witherspoon.
For many, Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in the film ‘Boyhood’ at the 2015 Oscars is unforgettable. Why? She utilised the time to address gender inequality in Hollywood, attributing her award “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and to fight for equal rights for women in America.”
And if Arquette’s powerful plea wasn’t memorable enough, Meryl Streep’s reaction is pretty hard to forget.
Arquette isn’t the first Hollywood celebrity to raise the issue. Cate Blanchett used her Oscars 2014 Best Actress in Blue Jasmine speech to chastise Hollywood for not valuing female protagonists, berating those, “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”
Outside of passionate Oscars speeches, word has also been leaked that stars such as Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lawrence have been paid only a fraction of what their fellow male co-stars have been paid in big budget films. So what exactly is being done in order to change this inherent gap?
As it turns out, there are actually plenty of female Hollywood icons that are empowering their fellow female workers via a means of platforms. For instance, in 2012 Reese Witherspoon teamed up with Australian Producer Bruna Papandrea to create Pacific Standard, a production company run by women, with the aim to create more meaningful roles for women. Within two years the company has already produced three major-hit films including Gone Girl, Wild and Hot Pursuit, with several more films in production now.
Also in America is The Writers Lab, an initiative run by New York Women in Film and Television, and funded by Meryl Streep, which annually brings together 12 women over the age of 40 for an intimate gathering and intense workshop.
Locally, there is The Dollhouse Collective, a Sydney based Production Company run by Rose Byrne, Krew Boylan, Shannon Murphy, Gracie Otto and Jessica Carrera whose aim is to produce films from a female perspective.
With statistics reported by Stacey Smith of the University of Southern California showing a sad reality (Of the top 250 grossing films of 2014, only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers were women. And of 5799 characters of 120 popular global films of the same year, only 30.9% were female, with only 23.3% of those films having a female lead or co-lead) I think it’s gone past the time that we need to band together as women to make a change. Change needs to happen now! So whether it is supporting the films that are produced by these female-empowering companies or protesting in equal rights rallies, I think it’s important that we all do our bit to make a difference.
Dimmitt M (2015), ‘Girls on Film’, Renegade Collective, no. 22, pp. 52 – 55.
Manelis M (2015), ‘Reese Witherspoon’, Renegade Collective, no. 23, pp.47 – 49