This week writer Aaron Sorkin showed up at the Tribeca Film Festival and, in his typical way, gave us some nuggets to digest about how the privileged few in Hollywood regard the rest of us. This is a man who has created some fantastic female characters, including The West Wing‘s CJ Cregg, and written one of the most misogynistic movies — The Social Network. So he’s an incredibly talented paradox to say the least.
Sorkin was asked a question at his Tribeca talk about the fact that women make up 52% of the moviegoing audience and yet are only 15% of the protagonists onscreen.
Here is his answer (which I transcribed from a video of the recording) with my commentary in between:
There are roughly as many women who can greenlight a movie in Hollywood as there are men, from Amy Pascal at Sony to Stacy Snider at Dreamworks to Donna [Langley] at Universal.
Well, no. There are not roughly as many women as men who greenlight movies. The women mentioned above all have greenlighting power, but they do not have the power to greenlight alone. As a recent piece in The Wrap showed, women do not really have the ability to greenlight films. Several studios have lone men as the final decision makers, and when women have a say, they work in tandem with men.
This answer has actually become quite typical of late. Now that there are a few women in power, I constantly hear people looking to cover their asses by blaming the women for not making more movies about women. But remember, these are corporate jobs. These companies are part of multi-national corporations who are thinking about the dollars they can make overseas by shelling out another crappy superhero movie. Honestly, the fact that these women get any movies made by or about women should be seen as a victory. Pascal has hired Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron and released Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, and Langley hired Sam Taylor-Johnson for 50 Shades of Grey and Angelina Jolie for Unbroken. Have they done enough? No. No one has in Hollywood, but to blame the women is just such total bullshit.
There is a misunderstanding out there too. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how a female-driven movie like Bridesmaids is looked at as a fluke and therefore Hollywood doesn’t do it. That’s a premise that suggests that studio execs have piles of scripts as good as Bridesmaids. They don’t. Bridesmaids got made because it was really good, and I promise you that nothing but capitalism drives decision-making in Hollywood.
If there is a sense that this will make money, then it will get made, and I think that studio execs understand that it’s more than just 52% of the audience is female. Generally, if there is a couple — men and women — it is the woman who is deciding what they are seeing tonight. I think they understand that and the trick is there just needs to be more good scripts that have the kind of characters you are looking for.
While he doesn’t say that women are writing crappy movies, he does say that there are no good scripts about women that exist because if they existed they would be made. I take issue with that.
Firstly, I don’t think I am going out on a limb to say that there are many great scripts by women that just don’t get to the right place to even be seen by the studio execs for so many different reasons.
Second, I am sure they have some great scripts in their hot little hands that have female characters that for a thousand reasons just can’t get to the finish line to get a greenlight.
Third, his comment implies that the scripts about men that are made are good scripts when we all know that most of the scripts about men are terrible.
Fourth, how can you blame women for picking the movies to see that star men AS IF THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS. If you live in a place where your only option is a multiplex with Hollywood’s latest fare, you have only one or two times a year to potentially see a movie starring women.
If Sorkin decided to remove his head from his ass, he might one day come up with another woman as exemplary as CJ Cregg.