Thursday, January 07, 2010


Today I just want to pass along an article someone passed along to me about why film schools teach students to write superficial women.

Sometimes I think I come across to other screenwriters as this massive feminist and I feel like I have to tone it down to avoid the rolled eyes, but the truth is that women and Hollywood still have a rocky relationship. I like to write action movies with female protagonists. It's what I'm good at and what I love to do, yet I've been told by many people that nobody will buy an action film with a female protagonist so I should just start learning to write about men. But I don't want to. I like movies about badass chicks so I write movies about badass chicks.

I hope against hope that Kathryn Bigelow is nominated for an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker and I hope she wins, not just because she's a woman, but because that was almost a perfect film. But I admit I'd also love it because she's a woman. No woman has ever won for Best Director.

I hope Salt makes a shitton of money. I hope martial artist Gina Carano turns out to be a good actress and Steven Soderbergh's new film with her turns out to be a big hit. I hope that Hanna, a film about a teenage assassin, turns out good and does well. Maybe then people will layoff that stupid idea that women can't be badasses on the big screen.

Roar, dammit.


  1. I agree 100% with everything you wrote here. I also hope SALT is a huge hit, it looks so damn good. and Kathryn Bigelow deserves that Oscar. I will go HOMICIDAL if she loses.

    plus this sounds weird, but reading your blog is kind of comforting, because you're an aspiring female screenwriter and I feel like I can relate to your posts more than I can relate to male screenwriters.

  2. And vice versa. It seems like even some of the so-called feminist writers out there praise work that pigeonholes us all as permanent romantic comedy fodder. Romantic comedies are all very nice, but that's not what girls like us want.

  3. Hollywood definitely has a problem portraying women, that's for sure.
    Hell, I'm a freakin' GUY and I can tell you that.

    This is all especially true when it comes to female characters who are action oriented. How many Joan of Arc films have been made over the years? Too many to count. And how many have actually been good? One - and that was made in the silent era. This town just can't reconcile the fact that a woman can be complex, intelligent and feminine while still being able to kick ass.

    Hopefully it will all change someday (I've got a GREAT Joan of Arc script waiting for the right set of eyes).

  4. I'm totally down with what you're saying, one of the few reasons being is that my wife kicks ass in the corporate world and I'm the first to say that she should rightfully do so, and not just because she pays the bills around here lately.

    But, in the Hillary Clinton sense of shit, you ladies got to stick together. When she ran for office I proclaimed that if every president up until that point had been a woman, if the worst man possible would have run for office, the men still would have joined together and voted him in, just because he's a man.

    I'm tired of people, especially women, bitching about Diablo Cody, Hillary, but not Palin, because she is the biggest letdown to the gender with her non-committal, indecisive bs. SHe os a f'n embarrassment to your gender, giving another asshlole man reason to say women can't pull through.

    So it's good to see someone pointing this shit out, girls rock, and they are their biggest own enemy -- stick together and prove these pricks wrong and support some of the ladies who have.

    We sure as hell won't hear a man whisper some unacceptable crap in Meryl Streep's presence. Behind her back, maybe, but that fucker will be risking his scalp!

    Get out there and f'n do it, ladies, I'll buy a ticket!

  5. You know who needs to change for women to be more accepted as bad asses? Women.

    Seriously. Women with clout need to get off their asses and get their own films made.

    Sandra Bullock does it, by finding her own projects and working tirelessly to get them made. They just happen to be dramas and romantic comedies.

    When George Clooney was coming off of TV he did Batman just to get himself some clout. he has used that clout to get all kinds of projects made.

    Hollywood cares about one thing. Money.

    Buffy was a successful show. For seven seasons. Nobody seemed bothered by the idea of an ass kicking woman. Alias was also a success. People will watch. Guys will tune in at first just to watch the hot girl kicking some ass. but they'll stay if the story is great.

    I honestly think most mainstream actresses either are afraid to play those types of roles because they think they might look silly or it just isn't their taste. This will sound sexist, but most of the women I know aren't as into action movies as the men I know are.

    Actually that's not sexist, it's just the truth.

    So ladies, time to be proactive. Nobody is going to fight for you, you have to fight for yourself.

    And I also hope that Bigelow wins best director. She made the best film of the year. Actually I have it tied with Inglourious Basterds but it'd be nice to see her get the recognition.

  6. My experience of spec writing is somewhat similar - if there's one thing I have trouble with, it's actually writing MALE protagonists.

    Of my three spec feature scripts, as the heroes (for want of a better term) the first features an ensemble of two women, one man - with a woman the main lead, the second script is a trio of women (well, two teens and an 11 year old girl), and the third is a more or less equal man woman pairing, but centrally the story is much more the woman.

    The only male lead I've ever written really well, I think, is in that latter script, and that's only because he's sparking off the girl.

    All the script ideas I have in mind to develop revolve around female protagonists. My brain won't have it any other way. The only males getting a look in are ensemble casts and two book adaptations I have an eye on. I like to see women on film and I want to write women on film, that's all there is to it. Whether I'll get any of them made or not, who knows, but I wouldn't change the way I write for anything.

  7. Jack:

    1) Television and film are two different animals. There is no shortage of female badasses on TV. There is also a much greater population of female writers on TV.

    and 2) We aren't sitting around on our asses giggling and waiting for someone to hand us opportunities. Read the article I linked. It's not the first time I've heard this - we are specifically told not to write female protagonists because the studios are not buying. Not everybody has the money to make and distribute our own action films.

  8. Women have been kicking ass in novels for a long while now, especially in urban fantasy.

    Just sayin'.


  9. Emily,

    Again, Hollywood cares about one thing. Money. Somebody has to break that line. Milla Jovavich has tried, and had minor success, but she's also not a big name.

    Jolie tried with the Tomb Raider movies, but they sucked.

    But who else has tried? Not many. These top actresses make 10-20 million per movie. They have production companies. They have clout. What does Barrymore do with her clout? Romantic comedies and dramas for the most part.

    Weren't the Underworld movies a success? Kate Beckinsale has clout at this point. She could hire a great writer to develop a bad ass character script. I'd pay full price to see her playing a complete bad ass on the screen.

    I didn't say anybody was giggling. You're taking the positive attitude I have toward women, and trying to make me sound sexist. I love tons of movies/television shows with tough female characters. I'd pay to see more of that without question.

    Nobody hands anybody shit in the world, and especially in Hollywood. Women have to prove over and over again they can do it and make money at doing it.

    By the way, there are female protagonists all the time in horror films.

    That's the last I'll comment on this particular subject. I have a feeling you're going to continue to misunderstand the points I'm making.

  10. Well, my favorite movie (on cable) is The Jane Austen Book Club. They have relationship issues but they're all kind of hot.

    And I know I'd see Angelina types as superheroes. The problem as you think is the writing. Take Untraceable with Diane Lane, would have been a better movie but even a cyber-crime expert that's an FBI is tough and doesn't bawl.

    Same thing with The Invasion. Strong leads don't apologize while crying. Carrie and the girls did as much as the Pirates who do nothing but it was a good movie because the protag showed strength and the supporting characters were well-rounded.

    Bigelow is definitely due.

  11. Jack, again, your response is to suggest that nobody's trying to fix the situation. The fact that I'm discussing the inherent sexism in the system does not mean I'm not trying to change it or that no one is. It's not an either/or.

    The problem is, there are people in high positions in the Industry who have decided women only earn money when they're a stereotype, and as you said, Hollywood cares about money.

  12. More than being told not to write female characters - women are also discouraged from writing anything but RomComs, and discouraged from directing or from cinematography.

    I've talked to a few women indie directors who say there are far fewer women in film school, and those who do go are encouraged to become producers - because no one will buy a female-written action/thriller script; because no one will trust that women have the instincts to direct a commercial movie; because women are too weak/delicate to tolerate the harsh conditions and heavy lifting of camerawork on a feature...

    I've worked in some sexist environments, been threatened, had people quite rather than taking orders from a woman - and am still amazed by Hollywood. Its statistically, is one of the most sexist industries around, but there have been no lawsuits. Hollywood has this fudge factor, that it's really hard to prove what works and what doesn't... combine that with the glamour that makes people grateful to be allowed to work in the industry, and it gets very hard to change things.

    But it'll happen. Movies stop profiting, studios are likely to try all kinds of crazy things - like female-driven action flicks.

  13. I've been watching Salt numbers, hoping they grow huge, so far (11/11/10, release 7/23/10) box office is almost three times production budget:

    Domestic: $118,311,368 40.3%
    + Foreign: $175,017,705 59.7%
    = Worldwide: $293,329,073

    My idea of a great romantic movie for the ladies? True Romance. That's big love folks, though those of us lucky enough to have it don't go around killing people. Another example, State and Main, did the love stuff great, felt more authentic than any romantic comedy.

    Great article by Kesler. Sociological Images also a fun place for some deconstruction if you're ever in the mood (here's one piece on female characters in movies and on tv, and another on gender, race, and top billing at paramount, and just found out from that piece women are 55% of movie audience).


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