I’m Tired of Talking About Skirts vs. Suits

I’d been waiting all weekend to read the premiere op-ed by Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood, “Memo to Hollywood: Women go to the movies, too”. You see, I’ve mused on this topic of the lack of women on/behind the camera many times on the blog:

I had high hopes that this piece of writing would offer a different counter argument to the state of gender visibility in the film industry. But like getting socks for Christmas, I was appreciative, but disappointed. The points made were valid and I even learned a few new things (like “Women bought 40% of the tickets for THE AVENGERS.”). However, a number of questions popped in my head as I read the op-ed.

There were the usual notations: The triumphs of case studies like BRIDESMAIDS, THE HUNGER GAMES and other women-centered money makers. The age-old problem of there not being enough women in movies OR movies about women. Statistics including “Female characters were onscreen in 33% of the 100 top films of 2011” and “only 11% of those films had female protagonists”.

The overall call to action seemed to be that the studios need to get it through their thick skulls “that women starring on screen can also bring in the guys.” But which guys, exactly? I learned a long time ago that suits are concerned with the golden fratboy/manchild quadrant (males under 25). If you look at most films that have female lead characters, they aren’t exactly marketed with the tenacity of THE HUNGER GAMES or THE AVENGERS. So I’d also make the case that so-called “women films” need to adjust their marketing strategy. You can’t go, if you don’t know, right. Another thing that isn’t talked about is subject matter. Are there just some “chick flicks” that men would rather skip at the theater or instead see in the comfort of their home on DVD? Heck, aren’t there some films marketed towards women that even they would pass on? The film business is fickle and movie goers are even worse.

The point was also brought to the table that even with successes, studios on the surface appear to be “focused on more female-driven movies for about six months, then everyone “miraculously suffers amnesia in the wake of another kind of hit,” and the momentum stalls”.

People keep talking about THE HUNGER GAMES as the gender equalizing film, but like TWILIGHT, it is another series that had a huge following in the teen lit word. This fan-base only ballooned leading up to the film’s release. Simply put, HUNGER GAMES is as masculine as you can get . The story is boils down to kill or be killed. And isn’t that the truth for any underdog. Films about anything other than white heterosexual American men needed to be damn good or they’ll be used as an excuse not to try again.

My dollars went to purchasing tickets to bask in strong, funny, flawed female leads featured in well-written dynamic films like YOUNG ADULT, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, BRIDESMAIDS and THE HUNGER GAMES, but it always boils down to the story first. I really wish “skirts vs. suits” conversations like these would start including the other ever-important factors such as star power, quality of script/director, marketing strategies and all the other visible (and invisible) cogs that make this industry go round . Because opening weekend numbers for MAGIC MIKE weren’t as high as TED and many men have admitted that a certain little girl named Hushpuppy (BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD) made them cry. That’s a glimmer of hope for both sexes, if you know where to look for it.

You can read the full op-ed HERE .

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