Who Ya Gonna Call? Equity for Women in Leadership in Hollywood Is Ghosted

The sumemr 2016 remake of "Ghostbusters" with an all-female cast has brought the Hollywood gender gap into the spotlight yet again. Natalie Portman has no pants, the all-female leads in the remake of “Ghostbusters” were trashed before the movie came out and the TV women on all levels were snubbed for Emmy nominations.It has been a rough patch recently for women in leadership in Hollywood. What will it take for Hollywood to be a fair place for talented women to work? What can we do to make it happen more quickly?[bctt tweet=“What will it take for Hollywood to be a fair place for talented women to work?”]In a buzz-worthy New York Times profile of Natalie Portman (interviews conducted all by email), the Oscar-winning actress discusses her directorial debut. Yet inexplicably she is photographed missing the bottom half of her wardrobe, prompting a Twitter cascade of questions about the whereabouts of her pants.Marc Bain writes in Quartz: “Portman is an Israeli-American who wrestles with the complexities of Israel, which is also the focus of her new movie, based on Amos Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness. But oddly, mysteriously, despite the seriousness of subject and subject matter, the profile is illustrated almost entirely with images of Portman wearing swimsuits, excepting one shot of her in just a sweater and socks. There is not a pair of pants to be found.”Women in leadership continue to be sexualizedBain describes the incongruence of how Portman is depicted and the gravity of her role as director. “Though she’s a successful and accomplished woman, the camera primarily emphasizes her body, and the innuendo of her pantslessness. As decades of photography have done to women before her, the pictures needlessly sexualize her. While sexuality is a part of being human, here it’s practically the sole focus.”Garland Waller, director of the TV Graduate Program at Boston University, was also confused by the sexy state of undress of a Harvard University-educated woman in Hollywood.She wrote in Huffington Post: “And where were the women involved in the editorial decision? The shoot? Did they okay this? Did they participate? Did they say nothing? And yeah, the guys should have known, too, but these days I am not holding my breath.”Waller continues, “I guess you could ask why Natalie didn’t want to wear pants. I’d really like to know. I wonder if, while she was directing her debut movie, anyone asked, ‘Who’s wearing the pants around here?’ She must have been silent.”Women in Hollywood face harsh ridiculeWearing not only pants, but full-on jumpsuits, was the female comedy team of Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon in the remake of “Ghostbusters.” The  team and the movie  were summarily trolled, mocked, threatened and jeered at for even daring to take the male original movie to task. Jones was targeted on Twitter with extremely offensive racial hate speech and the troll in chief was officially banned for life from Twitter as a result of the outcry against the hate. Still, the movie was well-reviewed.“The highly-anticipated Ghostbusters reboot’s $46 million opening weekend marks the biggest live-action comedy opening since Universal’s Pitch Perfect 2 grossed $69 million last year,” according to Entertainment Weekly.Though box office sales were a whopping $46 million in one weekend, and it brought the movie in as the second highest grossing film behind “Secret Life of Pets” (with mostly animated male dogs barking), some are wondering if the barre is too high for movies with women in leadership as leading women characters. Since it’s opening, the film has grossed $89.6 million, but it is far short of the $250 million production plus marketing pricetag.  Will this doom the making of more female-led movies?“It’s an inane question, but it’s difficult to fault anyone for asking it—or for urging people to flock to theaters in the name of social activism—given that we still live in a world where the mere existence of a female-led big-budget film is an anomaly, where the movie’s reception has been defined by backlash from Internet sociopaths, and where studio execs have been known to cite isolated failures as justification for not greenlighting more blockbusters that center on women,” writes Aisha Harris in Slate.Why does it matter for women in leadership to be seen on the big screen as role models for girls?Jill Pantozzi writes in Hitflix about director Paul Feig: “Speaking with Vulture about the immense pressure of making a $150 million movie, Feig spoke on why he personally feels it was important to take the risk: ‘I wanted for little girls to be able to see themselves up on the screen. The original one exists, so you can see boys doing it, but how fun for girls to have this experience.’”The recent Emmy nominations of television shows also had a dearth of females lauded. In particular, the absence of late night talk show host Samantha Bee from the praise for late-night comedy struck many as plain sexist.“That tired boys club scenario was shockingly repeated as Emmy voters ignored Bee’s bold, electrifying series in favor of a show in which Jerry Seinfeld drives around with his celebrity pals in fancy cars to grab a cup of coffee,” according to Gulf News. .The writer continues, “Maybe the best explanation for some of these snubs lies in something that Robert King, who created The Good Wife with wife and writing partner Michelle King, told me a couple of years ago when lamenting their choice of a title for the series. ‘All my writer friends, they’ll watch any episode of something they consider tough and manly,’ King said. ‘But they will not be caught dead watching something called The Good Wife.’”The awards are the punctuation mark in a long process of marginalization for women in Hollywood, some say, from brainstorm to writing, creation, acting, producing, even promoting.Neal Zoren writes in The Reporter: “Women in general don’t seem to have the range and quantity of roles available to their male counterparts. Comedy is the place to be if you want to be nominated for a network program, but the list of nominated comedies doesn’t remotely compare with the depth and quality of the Drama fare.”Three of the six actresses in supporting roles in a drama series were from “Game Of Thrones,” prompting viewers and critics to wonder if it is pure fantasy that women will get fair recognition for their roles.A report published in 2015 by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, found gender and orientation inequality in the 700 top-grossing films from 2007-2014.These were the top findings on gender:

  • 2% of the 30,835 speaking characters evaluated were female
  • 11% of 700 films had gender ‐balanced casts or featured girls/women in roughly half (45 ‐9%) of the speaking roles.
  • 21 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a female lead or roughly equal co-lead.
  • In 2014, no female actors over 45 years of age performed a lead or co-lead role.
  • Less than a quarter of all speaking characters were female in the top animated films of 2014, a 7.4% decrease from 2010.
  • 8% of speaking characters in action/adventure films were female.
  • 34% of characters in 2014 comedies were female.

Joanna Robinson wrote in Vanity Fair about the report: “It makes sense that as the nation grows ever more accepting of diversity (or even as Hollywood increasingly appeals to a non-white, international audience) things will continue to improve.”Robinson continues, “But it’s important to have a clear-eyed look at just how far Hollywood has to go, and how important social media–based movements like Every Single Word Spoken or Shit People Say to Women Directors actually are. But, more importantly, film lovers wanting to see change in Hollywood have the opportunity to vote with their dollars.”Perhaps following the impact of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign that did make a difference on nominations the following year, speaking up, showing evidence of the gender gap and seeking answers for the lack of opportunities for women leaders in Hollywood will make a difference in the way women see themselves as leaders everywhere.[bctt tweet=“Seeking answers for the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood will make a difference.”]Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, created this mission: TAKE THE LEAD prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity.According to Variety,  following the Oscar nominations earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences also has a mission, albeit one to hopefully happen more quickly. They “vowed to double the number of women and minority voters by 2020. ‘Women in film — and especially women of color — continue to face discriminatory hurdles,’ said Jane Fonda, WMC co-founder and co-chair. ‘Hollywood is still an all-boys’ club.‘”Creating opportunities for women leaders in Hollywood is just as important as recognizing those who have excelled. “The Women’s Media Center has studied Oscars for 10 years, concluding that women represent only 19 percent of non-acting nominations — and the culprit is the industry’s hiring practices. According to the D.C.-based group, women received 327 nominations (less than one in five noms) behind the cameras, compared to 1,387 nods for men. The study covers 19 categories, including producers, writers, directors and cinematographers nominated from 2006 to 2015. This year, women represented 22 percent of nominees, a high mark for the past decade, though still well below women’s percentage of the population.“According to Variety: “‘There is a clear connection between the low numbers of women hired for behind-the-scenes jobs in film and women’s low representation among Oscar nominees,’ said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. ‘If they’re not hired in these non-acting categories, they’ll never have a chance to be recognized for their excellence.‘”Geena Davis, one of the key Hollywood women in leadership making a difference, especially with her Institute on Gender in Media, made headlines recently for unveiling plans for a new documentary on gender inequality in Hollywood  with a male director.According to Teresa Jusino writing in The Mary Sue, the onboarding of Tom Donahue as director was a deliberate move. Both the  creative team and “Davis believe that men need to be a part of the solution, and that this project is ultimately about creating more opportunity. They already have more women than men on their production team, and getting a 50-50 gender ratio on the crew for this project is something that they’re currently working hard to achieve.“And the good news is that at Comic-Con recently, Oscar-winning actress  Brie Larson announced she is the new Captain Marvel in the 2019 film. It is the first time for Marvel to feature a female character as the Superhero lead.