While the allegations of Warner Brothers studio President of Production Jeff Robinov stating that “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead” because of low/fatal box office tallies is not necessarily new news, and was not originally something I thought terribly relevant to blogging for any of the communities I write for, this piece from the UK MSN website by their movies editor Ed Holden is interesting.
Obviously, as Holden points out, the inherent misogyny of the comment is unarguable. But also something you can’t really argue with is the fact that movies with female leads are tanking. Have people suddenly stopped enjoying women? Looking at Nicole Kidman? (The last time I saw a total, her latest movie, co-starring Daniel Craig, hadn’t even made back its $80 budget.) And while that might strike you as a misandrist comment – consider the utter box office failure of all romantic movies, regardless of the gender of the lead, or the fact that, again as Holden notes, the female target audience has largely disappeared. (Maybe they’re all in grad school, like me, and have only had the time and spare money - $12 for a movie?! – for one movie a year?)
But what is truly interesting to me is something I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere but in this piece, and what I suddenly find myself wondering about in other settings. Rabinov blamed the box office failure on the leading role being a woman - not bad marketing, or bad writing, directing, or anything else. Roles typically taken by men in the movie industry, and that clearly have much more control over the quality of the movie, or the ability to draw an audience. It’s convenient to scapegoat the women, something my women’s studies friends would probably say is an attempt to subvert the strides women have made in gaining equality. Put her back in the kitchen – or at least the role of the helpless romance interest.
The academy has some similar gender concentrations, for lack of better concept, with women newly (and massively, by general statistics) emerging in all fields, but men still being in many, if not most, of the positions of authority. I wonder, then, just how much scapegoating of women in our own field has occurred because of faulty assumptions, blaming her gender rather than other circumstances around the failure (or perceived reason to scapegoat).
So I toss it out to you, at a sleepless 4am, and wonder if you know of any experiences like this for women in our (vastly defined) field, or if you think it’s happened to you? Is this, in your opinion, an isolated instance, or do you think it’s more common to reach for blaming the woman involved? It’s genuinely something that’s never crossed my mind, and I’d like to hear your thoughts.