05 Jan Lady Parts: The Fight Against Show Business Sexism
By now you’ve probably seen the Lady Parts tumblr and the articles that have followed it exhibiting how incredibly disgusting and sexist acting breakdowns tend to be. If you haven’t seen them yet, I encourage you to take a look. Really. I’ll wait.
In an industry where women are underrepresented both behind and in front of the camera, the few speaking roles that are offered to women are often highly sexualized.
From Lady Parts tumblr
While these casting calls are not all that is out there, they still represent a very real issue in a majority of the roles available to women. These roles that require that a woman be the ideal of societal beauty or only give a woman value based on her relationship to a man. The fact that the dwindling number of female roles include so many in which women are given very little respect and consideration is incredibly disappointing, not to mention discouraging.
I sift through casting calls like these every single day, and I already feel a bit desensitized to it. I naturally filter out anything with the words “really hot,” “playboy,” or similar terms, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see them. The majority of the breakdowns I sort through get dismissed because of such an obvious lack of substance. Not only do I feel that I don’t fit into those categories (having never been a Victoria Secret model), but I also have no desire to put myself in a situation where there is no real character to portray. I find those roles degrading, irrelevant, and flat-out boring.
Where are the casting calls for the interesting, complicated women who are fighting for what they believe in? Or how about the female geniuses who are going to save the world from that earth-destroying asteroid? Where is the abrasive and vulnerable lady who is just doing the best she can?
Frustrated with the lack of roles I could relate to, I recently wrote/produced/acted in The Interview, a short film about two women scientists. As I was bringing crew members on board, I knew I wanted to work with a female director and female DP to tell this particular story. My director, who I was INCREDIBLY fortunate to work with, came on board because she was excited about the smart women characters. When the female DPs I knew weren’t available to shoot, I began asking for recommendations from other filmmakers I know in Los Angeles, and shockingly half of them claimed they didn’t know any women DPs. In an industry so dominated by men behind the camera, it is no wonder that the disequilibrium is leaking into the types, quantities, and quality of roles filmmakers expect to see and cast in their films. The women I was able to connect with regarding DPing my film were thrilled that I was going out of my way to work with a female crew. But it didn’t feel out of my way. It just felt right.
I loved this article about how Jennifer Garner addressed the blatant sexism she faces. She talked about how she and her husband (Ben Affleck) were each promoting their separate films, and how, without fail, every single reporter asked her how she was able to balance her career with her family. Also without fail, not a single reporter asked Ben about balancing family, although many of them did ask about his co-star’s breasts. News flash: Ben and Jennifer are part of the same family.
How insulting. How infuriating.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but woman are just as complicated, intelligent, fascinating, and complex as men. And when the MAJORITY of roles I sift through every day are ones I dismiss because of the obvious lack of CHARACTER – we need to do something about it.
Joss Whedon, one of my favorite filmmakers and showrunners, addresses this issue in almost every project he is a part of. When people praise him for his female characters, he almost dismisses their comments because he is writing interesting CHARACTERS, regardless of sex.
I also admire the work Mindy Kaling is doing with The Mindy Project. Not only does she write, produce, edit, and act in the show, she also works to show a woman who is complex. Mindy Lahiri (her character) isn’t just strong, or beautiful, or successful, or zany, or any one thing. You can’t simplify her.
“I want her to be realistic and authentic. So many of the female characters that I see on TV, they’re just kind of put-upon and boring. They’re so worried about viewers not being able to handle them being nuanced or occasionally selfish. But every woman I know is occasionally selfish—and also can be heroic and funny. I just try to make her interesting and nuanced, and if some people think she’s obnoxious sometimes, well, people are sometimes obnoxious, and they can still be heroes.” –Mindy Kaling
Women need to continue to create the roles they want to see, and BOTH men and women need to work to correct this imbalance. As casting director Bonnie Gillespie says, we are creating the Hollywood that WE want to be a part of. And the Hollywood I want to be a part of is one where we are telling stories about interesting female and male characters in equal number.
“I hope to see roles for women that are just as flawed, and complicated, and messy as the roles men get to play.” -Katrina P. Day, of Lady Parts.
Amen, sister friend.
This article originally appeared on Ms. In The Biz