Film Forward

Here Are 5 Reasons Why Women Should Be Directing More Films — Especially About Men

“Batgirl should have a female director, but so should Batman.”

Female directors are still widely underrepresented in Hollywood. In fact, instead of getting better, it's gotten worse. Women comprised only 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic films released in 2016, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. And that's a 2 percent decline from 2015 and 1998.  

When you get into female directors telling stories about men, that tiny percentage is even smaller. The same study found that when women were given the opportunity to direct films, it was most likely in documentaries and dramas, and least likely in action and horror films.

In Noah Gittel's recent essay for Esquire, he explores the reasons why women directors should not only be directing more films, but also how they should be directing more films about men.

While others may have been celebrating the news of Joss Whedon directing the upcoming Batgirl film, Gittel felt like it was a "significant setback for the movement to increase representation of women behind the camera."  

"Isn't it possible that women could bring a much-needed new angle to our stories of male mythology?" he wrote.

As he points out, if female directors only get the opportunity to direct films about female superheroes in a world where mythological male protagonists dominate the comic book film industry, then we'll be waiting a long while. After all, the last solo female superhero movie was 2005's Elektra, which was directed by … a man.

Sure, Patty Jenkins is the female director behind the upcoming Wonder Woman film and, along with Whedon, their accomplishments are surely something to celebrate. But only a small, tiny celebration to reflect the percentage of female directors representing in Hollywood cinema, an industry largely run by a "male group of producers and studio executives who make these decisions."  

"They still feel a feminine voice can only be used to depict women," Gittel wrote.

Photo Credit: Ahmet Yalçinkaya / UnSplash
Photo Credit: Ahmet Yalçinkaya / UnSplash

The piece comes up with 5 reasons why female directors should be able to make movies about men (and women):

1. Equality Behind the Camera

Let's be clear that women need more opportunities behind the camera altogether, but the fight for females to direct films about women is quite limiting in the battle for equality. Male directors making movies about women is so arbitrarily typical in Hollywood that we almost always expect it. So, it's going to take a lot more than women advocating for women to make the directing playing field equal.

"Men should advocate for this change because we are also burdened by norms of masculinity," Gittel wrote. "We deserve to have our mythologies busted, too."

2. Diversity in Storytelling and Perspectives

Comedies have been the safe space for female directors making films about men, such as 1988's Big, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Penny Marshall, or 1992's Wayne's World, starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, and directed by Penelope Spheeris. Those characters showed a different perspective on masculinity, or as Gittel described them, "sensitive heroes."

Fast-forward to some of the films about men in recent years that were directed by women that aren't comedies, and the diversity of storytelling is hard to miss. Take for instance, the Kathryn Bigelow-directed The Hurt Locker, which won the 2009 Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director.

The film "subverted one of man's most precious myths: the war hero."

"War is a place where men become men. … but Bigelow managed to subtly undercut this myth while simultaneously paying homage to it," Gittel described.

Photo Credit: Fabio Pagani / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Fabio Pagani / Shutterstock

3. Vulnerability

Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, along with other female-directed films with male protagonists such as Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and Mary Harron's American Psycho, as Gittel points out, are prime examples of how "women have made the most of their opportunities when they've received the green light to tell more substantial male stories."

It's OK for the male leads not to be "horndoggery at every turn." And these women directors proved it with their direction of unforgettable characters.

"Notably, each of these three films reached an emotional climax when the male protagonist breaks down in tears," Gittel described, giving examples from each film like when Anthony Mackie, under Bigelow's direction, breaks down after a tragic standoff with a suicide bomber.

"Although The Hurt Locker was written by a man, Bigelow's hand guided it to the scene, and it's hard to imagine such a vulnerable scene in any male-directed war film," he wrote.

4. Truly Revolutionary

Let's not beat around the bush: women directors making films about men is revolutionary! And it's a revolution that should have happened ages ago, you know, during all those decades when male directors were making films about women. But since it hasn't, the time is now.

"Letting female directors make male stories symbolically gives them the chance to deconstruct the walls of power that men have spent centuries building," Gittel wrote so eloquently. "That's exactly why it should be done."

5. It's Simple

When given the chance, female directors of all backgrounds prove just why they need to be doing more and more. Ever heard of Ava DuVernay, the first black woman in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe for best director? Yes, it was for this little film you may have heard about called Selma, the biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, when DuVernay took to the small screen with her hit TV drama Queen Sugar, she vowed to employ only female directors of color for its first season, which included the self-described queer Chicana filmmaker Aurora Guerrero.

While it may seem so simple to give female directors the same opportunities as their male counterparts, somehow, we haven't quite gotten there yet.

"Batgirl should have a female director, but so should Batman," Gittel wrote. "Wonder Woman needed one, but, right now, so does Superman."

(H/T: Esquire)

Cover image: Ahmet Yalçinkaya / UnSplash

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.