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Max Evry

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Max Evry is an incorrigible freelancer in the concrete jungle that is New York City. Besides his writing/illustrations for various movie sites, he's also worked extensively in Film & TV production... more

When Will We Stop Saying ‘Female Director’?

Okay, so you’re going through your average movie news site, and you stumble upon an item that maybe looks like this:

“Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Gets Female Director”

Or this:

“Ellis Calls Female Director ‘Overrated’”

Catch any names there? Neither did we. In each case, the articles describe high-profile directors with the “gender first, ask questions later” philosophy of journalism, and this is what is so irksome. Couldn’t Big Screen Animation put Jennifer Lee’s name out there as the screenwriter of Disney’s $215M plus hit “Wreck-It Ralph,” or does the fact that the “Frozen” director has labia instead of testicles really trump that fact?

Or how about that Windsor Star piece about hack “American Psycho” author Bret Easton Ellis calling Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win for “The Hurt Locker” a vaginally motivated political decision, as opposed to the merit of it actually being a ripping good movie?

Specifically, he Tweeted:

“Kathryn Bigelow would be considered a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man but since she’s a very hot woman she’s really overrated.”

That’s some nice provocateur-ing there, Bret, but we don’t buy it, not for a second. While  Bigelow was the first woman to take home the Best Director Academy Award for “Hurt Locker,” that’s at best a footnote for those who have sat back and watched that movie for what it is: a super-charged military thrill ride through the horrific playground that is Iraq.

Kathryn BigelowWhen “The Hurt Locker” came out in 2009 and the Oscar hullabaloo was at its peak, there were throngs of journalists who wanted to point out how “political” and “subversive” it was that a woman was directing a testosterone-packed action movie. Yeah, never mind the fact that the movie is actually political and genuinely subversive, which it would be even if it was directed by Alan Smithee, for Christ’s sake. Lord knows what it’s been like for her hearing the same song and dance since directing movies like “Blue Steel” and “Point Break” over two decades ago.

Now that Bigelow is in the news again for her awards front-runner “Zero Dark Thirty,” we’re hearing the same refrain of “female director” like the media has sexist Tourettes. Isn’t “Ellis Calls Kathryn Bigelow ‘Overrated’” enough of a grabby headline?

Sometimes the fact that ladies like Penny Marshall or Nancy Meyers can make hyper-successful mainstream pictures is trumped by the whole, “Gosh, they’re women making big movies!” thing. No one takes into account their longevity in this business, which is remarkable for anyone. In the flood of obituaries for the late, great Nora Ephron earlier this year, her status as a pioneering woman was trumpeted as loud as an air raid siren, which is true, no doubt. It would also be nice if someone noticed she basically lapped her contemporary (and former romcom king) Rob Reiner, who hasn’t made something even half as audience-pleasing as Ephron’s “Julie & Julia” in about two decades.

Reema Kagti, a Bollywood director of such films as “Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.” who worked as an assistant director under the acclaimed Mira Nair on “Vanity Fair,” says she’s fed up with the 1950s terminology as well.

“I have an allergy to the term female director,” Kagti told The Times of India. “We don’t ask men how they feel as a [male] director. However, I do feel the change and I feel that it’s just not the film industry, but any industry in India. There is [an] emerging new demographic of women, who are independent out there.”

The Wachowskis and Tom TykwerIndeed, times are shifting not just in India but in the states as well. Lana Wachowski began openly discussing her gender transition after years of media seclusion and earned the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award for her trouble. Given that she, along with brother Andy and Tom Tykwer, helmed the $100M Tom Hanks-starrer “Cloud Atlas” is a sure sign that gender barriers are being broken, but her having  made the billion dollar “Matrix” franchise didn’t hurt her line of credit either. Also, it’s amazing that anybody made “Cloud Atlas” because that movie is weird as f**k.

Will Lana be known as a “female director” or a “trans director,” or should we simply refer to her as “co-director of the mother-flippin’ ‘Matrix’”?

Want another sign o’ the times landmark? This year exactly half of the narrative features programmed for the Sundance Film Festival were made by women. Damn, son, that’s minority majority territory right there, so we’re not too far from a “Planet of the Apes”-style matriarchal revolt in Hollywood. That means the next headline talking about Sofia Coppola, Lena Dunham, Lynne Ramsay, Brenda Chapman, Jennifer Yuh, Nancy Meyers, Catherine Hardwicke, Nicole Holofcener, Mira Nair, Julie Taymor or Kathryn Bigelow better call them what they are: A DAMN GOOD DIRECTOR.


Categories: Features

Tags: Blue Steel, Bret Easton Ellis, Cloud Atlas, Controversy, Frozen, Jennifer Lee, Kathryn bigelow, Lana Wachowski, Point break, The hurt locker, Wreck-It Ralph, Zero Dark Thirty

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