While doing press at SXSW for “Spy,” his third collaboration with Melissa McCarthy, which premiered at the festival on Sunday, the director was blunt about how sexism plagues the film industry, both onscreen and behind the scenes.
Feig also addressed the disconcerting reactions to his “Ghostbusters” reboot, which of course features an all-female cast. “The first wave when you make an announcement like that is overwhelmingly positive. Everyone’s so happy and you’re like, ‘This is great.’ Then comes the second wave, and you’re like, ‘Oh my God. Some of the most vile, misogynistic shit I’ve ever seen in my life,'” said Feig in an interview with Variety.
He continued, “The biggest thing I’ve heard for the last four months is, ‘Thanks for ruining my childhood’… It’s so dramatic. Honestly, the only way I could ruin your childhood is if I got into a time machine and went back and made you an orphan.” Like Feig, we can’t quite wrap our heads around the claim that switching the gender of a ragtag group of parapsychologists to women can sully — nay, destroy — your love for a franchise, nevermind your childhood itself. But, of course, misogyny isn’t about logic or reason.
In an effort to dig deeper — to discover what sort of people would make such outrageous claims — Feig looked at senders’ profiles on Twitter when receiving especially hateful comments. He revealed, “I figure it’s some wacked-out teenager. But almost constantly it’s someone whose bio says ‘Proud father of two!’ and has some high-end job. You’re raising children, and yet you’re bashing me about putting women in my movie?” While we find the prospect of these people shaping young minds terrifying, we aren’t exactly shocked; “wacked-out teenagers” aren’t the only ones with a regressive view of gender. And besides, they are learning much of that behavior from their parents — the kind of dudes who say that Melissa McCarthy suiting up to investigate paranormal activity is sacrilege.
Hollywood itself is largely responsible for perpetuating this sexist nonsense. As Feig went on to say in a sit-down with The Huffington Post, “I don’t think [the situation in Hollywood] is getting better. It’s not as terrible as it was, but look at the number of lady directors. I have guilt that I’m a man doing these movies. Women should be doing them, too! The studios aren’t giving them the opportunity for whatever reason, and the roles still aren’t there for women like they should be.”
We’ve definitely noticed Feig’s commitment to spotlighting female characters; earlier in the year, we wrote that he “has made a fine career of writing good roles for women and directing female-centric projects.” That being said, we obviously agree with what Feig is saying — female directors should be given the opportunity to helm the kind of projects he does, like “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” “Spy,” and “Ghostbusters.” We guess we’re supposed to be placated by the fact that we occasionally get to see movies like this — ones focused on women — and asking for a woman to tell these stories is simply asking for too much.
Regarding the suggestion that “Ghostbusters” should have been a “mixed” cast with male and female characters, Feig responded, “It’s hard enough to pick four actresses! There are so many funny women out there, and they need these roles. I hate that. I hate that there isn’t more opportunity.” Feig sees genre movies as an opportunity to redefine what we’ve come to expect from female characters: “I love doing these genre movies [because] there are women in it, but it’s not about all my lady problems. But they’re not acting like men. They’re acting like women would. I love the theme of female friendship. I’ve seen it with my wife, and how important and difficult it is. So I enjoy that. To me, that’s more interesting than trying to work out a relationship with a man. There are plenty of those movies being made, so I don’t have any interest in doing them.”
We’re hopeful that Feig will continue to be a vocal advocate for women in Hollywood, both in his work and in the press. We need more men in the business to speak up and tell the truth about the unjust challenges their female colleagues face.
“Spy” opens May 22.