“That a movie with a female protagonist can be a big hit is no surprise, but for those who want to see more gender parity in Hollywood, the opportunities for women to make and star in blockbusters are few and far between,” stated host Diane Rehm in today’s installment of NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” The episode focused on gender inequality in the film industry and featured guests Nicole Kidman, Women and Hollywood founder and editor Melissa Silverstein, Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday, associate professor in film at Howard University Montre Aza Missouri and Bruna Papandrea, co-founder and co-president of Pacific Standard Production Company alongside Reese Witherspoon.
Hornaday described gender disparity in Hollywood as “chronic and serious” and explained how women’s market power isn’t reflected when it comes to which films get greenlit. “I think that Hollywood is based on false narratives,” Silverstein said. These misconceptions include the “facts” that women cannot direct big budget films, don’t go to the movies and don’t constitute a market. Silverstein emphasized that women account for half of the population but remain “the other” in terms of how they are represented in film. Female-driven films that succeed at the box office aren’t “flukes,” and this is a conversation that Silverstein is tired of having. “I think that this is a trend, and Hollywood really needs to figure out how to add more movies with female protagonists,” she noted.
Missouri speculated that Hollywood has been slow to hire women directors because of the culture within the industry. “Men are oftentimes the ones making these decisions… and [hiring] who they’re familiar with, and again, it’s the images that they themselves have grown up watching.” Papandrea shared that she and Witherspoon formed Pacific Standard with the mandate of telling stories about female role models and are currently working on a warrior-princess movie that “redefines the myth of what we might think of [as a] princess traditionally.”
Kidman spoke about the fact that more — and better — roles are available to aging actresses in theatre than cinema, particularly American cinema, because “there is a huge emphasis on youth and age” and stories about older women are devalued. The “Queen of the Desert” star also revealed that she’ll be acting in an upcoming Jane Campion movie. Campion previously directed Kidman in the 1996 adaptation of Henry James’ “The Portrait of a Lady.”
Listen to the full episode here.