Wonder Woman threw her shield and there’s a deep crack in the celluloid ceiling.
Years ago, I was at one of those Hollywood parties. I struck a conversation with a head of a medium size studio and his head of distribution.
Somehow (?) the conversation turned to the topic of female stars and directors. Why is it so difficult for women to get lead roles?
They were very nice and explained it to me; women don’t open movies. No matter how you look at it, the numbers don’t lie. It’s a sad fact that proved itself time and time again.
What about women directors?
None of them did good enough (that was before the “Heart Locker”). What about Catherine Hardwicke’s “Twilight”? An opening weekend of $69 million? Gross of almost $400 million worldwide?
That was based on a previously popular material. It had a built-in audience.
Every example I throw their way, and it wasn’t easy – they knew the numbers inside out – was rebuffed. When they had no other explanations, they called it a fluke.
I didn’t begrudge them. They were business people fighting to stay up in a very competitive and cruel world.
I didn’t begrudge them because that was the going wisdom in Hollywood. Fueled by the emergence of new technologies that could slice and dice the data. The numbers.
And it was perpetuating itself. No trust in the ability of women, no backing for a movie with women. The numbers again are stacked against them. When something does succeed, it’s called a fluke.
That’s when I realize that the problem is not with individuals. Trying to produce hits with no budgets, although happening once in a while, is not the way. We need a change in perception. We need to break the cycle.
When I was asked at the DGA in 2013 what do we want to achieve with our activism, I said we want to rattle the cage. There were others (Geena Davis) who realized it too, but when we were faced with such opposition at the DGA, we said we need to take it out of this building and shake the whole industry.
My friends looked at me like I’ve lost my mind.
Working with the ACLU, we managed to convince them there’s a problem. Their eventual letter to the EEOC asking to investigate was the first shot. We managed (mostly Maria Geise) to bring the issue to the first pages of the Calendar section of the LA Times.
Two years later (this May) one by one those assumptions are crumbling. Let us in, we said, and we’ll make you money. Women open movies. Bridesmaids recouped its production budget in the first weekend and went on to make about ten times more. The Heat, Tammy, and almost any movie Melissa McCarthy did made its production budget back on the first weekend.
Which brings us to Wonder Woman.
Colin Trevorrow’s remark from August 2015 that women don’t want to direct action hero movie was proven incorrect.
There are a lot of firsts in the past few years: The first woman to win the Oscar, the 2nd woman to win at Cannes, and now the first woman to direct a superhero movie.
The first woman-directed movie grossed over $100 million in its first weekend.
So, even without seeing the movie, it is a great first.
And now there will be others.
The second reason I love this movie is the Israeli connection: lead actress Gal Gadot.
She is definitely a representation of Israeli women of all ages. Women who, from the inception of the country, took part in the fighting and those, like Gal, who are still giving 2 years of their lives to serve in the army. Those ‘prime years’ between the ages of 18 to 20 are not dedicated to studying, making money, or generating fame. Women, just like the men, are giving back to the country that allows them to be Jewish and free. And not feel like a minority.
Women who grew up on the idea that being a female prime minister, like Golda Meir, is possible. Women who make money, raise a family and have careers. Just like Gal Gadot.
Being a working woman was a necessity in the developing country and most of our mothers worked to supplement the income. And almost all of my Israeli female friend today work or have careers and raise a family.
It is a great compliment that an Israeli woman embodies what we look for in a strong woman: Ability, agility, curiosity, strength, humor, emotions, and the desire to right the wrong and bring peace to the world.