Fall In: Powerful Women To Read and Watch On Big and Small Screens
Deconstructing how we spend our entertainment time this fall whether it is reading books or watching films, documentaries and series on the big and small screens, shows some vast improvement moving toward gender parity in representation.
Could it possibly be true?
In its “Fall Books Preview: The 40 biggest titles of the season,” 70 percent or 289 of the 40 titles listed by Entertainment Weekly are written by women. That’s parity plus.
Covering the best of fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, young adult and memoir, this list alone is bucking a historical trend of forever of male authors dominating recommended lists. Take The Lead picks 10 here, aligned with the mission of using our voices to take a stand.
1. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood. This one is the sequel to the The Handmaid’s Tale, 34 years later.
2. Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith. The iconic rocker sets us up with a second memoir following her through a year of discovery,
3. Grand Union: Stories, by Zadie Smith. This short story collection combines current events with fictional characters.
4. Make It Scream, Make It Burn, by Leslie Jamison. All in one place, a collection of her award-winning creative nonfiction essays.
5. Wild Game, by Adrienne Brodeur. The book editor’s memoir about her childhood and a big secret held too long.
6. Camgirl, by Isa Mazzei. This is the book based on the movie based on the livestream.
7. Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon. Who knew? This memoir focuses on the friendship of Simon and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
8. Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller. This biography may help in understanding the star who lived big on and off screen.
9. Slay, by Brittney Morris. Set in the in the world of gaming, the author creates a fantasy world.
10. Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker. This is a semi-autobiographical story of a 17-year-old black girl struggling with depression.
Published works and articles about published works are skewed male, representing a literary marketplace that does not showcase gender parity. According to Publishing Perspectives, “The Vida Count shows five of the 15 major outlets showed women to represent between 4o and 49.9 percent of their total publication: They include Harper’s (42.1 percent); The New York Times Book Review (45.9 percent); The New Republic (42.2 percent); The Paris Review (42.7 percent) and Tin House (49.7 percent).”
However, “Eight of the 15 publications “failed to publish enough women writers to make up even 40 percent” of their work in 2017. These include Boston Review (37.8 percent); London Review of Books (26.9 percent); and The New Yorker (39.7 percent).”
History has favored male writers with bias over the last century giving male authors an advantage in publishing, according to a study of best-sellers in 2017 in Pudding.
“Published works and articles about published works are skewed male, representing a literary marketplace that does not showcase gender parity. These categories align with stereotypes about male interests: fantasy and science fiction, spy and political fiction, suspense fiction, and adventure fiction, have all been consistently male-dominated since their introduction to the list. A best-selling female fantasy/sci-fi author today is just as rare as a best-selling female literary author in the 1950s.”
Yet, there is good news. “If we are looking for a single category to explain why women are better represented among best-selling authors today, the Literary/None category is our best candidate. Most best-selling books fall into this category, and its change over time closely matches the overall gender ratio, shifting from extreme bias in the 1980s to close to parity in the 2000s.”
For the big screen films and documentaries coming out in September, according to the Los Angeles Times, the percentage of women who wrote, directed, co-directed, wrote the original book or are the subject of the film is 22 percent, or 18 of the 79 movies.
According to University of Southern California data, in 2018, 92 percent of the directors of the top 250 movies were men. The paucity of female directors has been the same for decades, but it is a surprising turn from the silent era of films at the turn of the 20th century when women filmmakers were common.
Here are 14 we recommend you support by checking out in theaters this month:
1. Boy Genius. Written by Vicky Wight. Directed by Bridget Stokes.
2. Edie. Written by Elizabeth O’Halloran.
3. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice. Documentary on the life of Linda.
4. Can You Keep a Secret? Coi-written by Sophia Kinsella, based on Kinsella’s novel.
5. The Goldfinch. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestselling novel by Donna Hartt.
6. Hustlers. Mostly all-female cast, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, inspired by an article by Jessica Pressler.
7. Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins. Documentary on the late Texas political columnist. Directed by Janice Engel.
8. Riot Girls. Written by Katherine Collins. Directed by Jovanka Vuckovic.
9. The Weekend. Written and directed by Stella Meghie.
10. Trauma is a Time Machine. Written and directed by Angelica Zollo.
11. Abominable Written and directed by Jill Culton.
12. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements. Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky.
13. Judy. This film focuses on one week in London for Judy Garland.
14. Sister Aimee. Written and directed by Samantha Buck, Marie Schlingmann.
On the small screen— that includes the networks, as well as HBO, Netflix, Amazon and more-- there are 33 shows worth watching, according to Rolling Stone. The good news is almost 40 percent of those TV shows feature women as the main characters, hosts or drivers of the plot lines.
Here’s Take The Lead’s take on what powerful women we look forward to seeing this fall in these 14 shows.
1. “Unbelievable” on Netflix. ProPublica in 2015 first wrote about efforts to track a serial rapist, and now this series written by Susannah Grant is directed by Lisa Cholodenko.
2. “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” on NBC. Disrupting the mostly white male late night hosting gig is an Indian-Canadian bisexual comedian.
3. “Stumptown” on ABC. Dax Parios is a female military veteran turned private investigator in Portland.
4. “Back To Life” on Showtime. This centers on a thirty something woman trying to readjust to life after serving 18 years in prison for murder.
5. “Batwoman” on The CW. The queer female superhero fights for good.
6. “Nancy Drew” on The CW. Nancy Drew has a clue, actually lots of them. Catch up on the iconic mystery solver.
7. “Limetown” on Facebook Watch. Jessica Biel stars as a public radio reporter investigating a mystery in her spare time.
8. “Mrs. Fletcher” on HBO. Adapted from a book about a single mom after her son goes off to college.
9. “The Crown” on Netflix. It’s all about QE II in the 60s.
10. “His Dark Materials” on HBO. Main character is Lyra Belacqua, a young orphan searching for kidnapped children with Ruth Wilson chasing her down.
11. “The Morning Show” on Apple TV. Feels real to see a show about a female anchor whose male co-anchor is fired after a #MeToo scandal.
12. “Undone” on Amazon. A story about a young woman traveling through space and time in an attempt to reverse the death of her father.
13. “Why Women Kill” on CBS All Access. This was not in the Rolling Stone list but Esquire calls it, “a fresh premise about women in America. Set in the same house across three decades, the three starring women tackle the same problems of infidelity and identity.”
14. “Catherine The Great” on HBO. Also endorsed by Esquire and missed by RS, this stars Helen Mirren. Esquire writes, “with Mirren attached, it's fairly certain that it's going to be the kind of high brow show worthy of your attention.”
With so much to read and watch this fall with great female-driven story lines of powerful women created and acted in by powerful women, we suspect many of us will be inspired.