Actress Julia Stiles recently sat down to talk with Hilary Reinsberg of BuzzFeed’s new site, SHIFT about her new role in Blue, one of the series on the new Wigs channel, a new project led by directors Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia, that brings scripted dramas to YouTube. When asked about the quality of roles in movies and television for women, Julia feels that there are plenty but they are always the same. She told Reinsberg: ”I don’t feel that way in terms of quantity — I think there are interesting roles for women in movies and television, but they tend to just play one thing. So they’re the mother or the daughter or the girlfriend or the wife, and the difference for me in this role was that you see the character in all aspects of her life. You see her in many different roles — as the mom, the daughter, the friend, the co-worker, the escort.”
Julia makes a good point and a frequently addressed one. We won’t start seeing better roles for women until they get the power in the studios. Just last week at the Crystal and Lucy Awards Meryl Streep spoke about how films about women have proved that they can make money and yet big film studios insist on making these huge films that cost so much more to make and often lose a ton of money.
In her speech she said:
“In this room, we are very familiar with these dreadful statistics that detail the shocking under-representation of women in our business. Seven to 10% of directors, producers, writers, and cinematographers [are women] in any given year. This in spite of the fact that in the last five years, five little movies aimed at women have earned over $1.6 billion: The Help, The Iron Lady believe it or not, Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia!, and The Devil Wears Prada. As you can see, their problems were significant because they cost a fraction of what the big tent-pole failures cost. . . . Let’s talk about The Iron Lady. It cost $14 million to make it and brought in $114 million. Pure profit! So why? Why? Don’t they want the money?
Alice Walker said that the most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any. That’s like [hearing] that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask for them. It’s incredible.”
Jane Fonda, another film legend, said that while women have made strides in front of and behind the camera, the entertainment industry needs more female decision-makers. ”Until more women wield the power to decide what movies and TV shows get made, Hollywood culture won’t really yield all the fascinating complexities that are the realities of women’s lives,” she said. “Until then, we’re accepting supporting roles in an industry many of us have devoted our lives to.”