Obst, I Did It Again

Yes, you in the back. Did you have something to add?

Lynda Obst, a highly visible executive with twenty years producing experience and a hearty string of hits to her name, was quoted a week or so ago in The Washington Post apropos the curious case of Women and Film. Considering my recent outburst over Manhola Dargis, I thought it more than reasonable to underscore the wisdom of Obst’s remark, which gets at the same subject, but through a slightly different point of entry, and I think, hits closer to the real problem.

She says, “it’s easier for male executives to get jobs now, because they [Hollywood] want to develop male-oriented material. Girls don’t grow up reading comic books or playing video games, or with Transformer or G.I. Joe toys. So the material they’re looking for isn’t necessarily as familiar to female executives who read books, which is becoming practically a liability. That’s a real problem. That’s how it becomes systemic.”

That’s more like it! Kowtowing to the tyrannical cycle of supply and demand, Hollywood, like any factory system without imagination, thrives on repeating successful formulas. If a male director has proven himself in a particular genre, why shouldn’t he be able to prove himself again under similar circumstances? Unfortunately, over time, this can slap down an equation sign between genders and genres.

Obst’s point, a terrific one, implies that that equation sign has less to do with sexism than with commerce. If Marvel movies do the best at the box office, it makes sense – sad sense, but sense nonetheless – that studios would hire experts in the field of male-oriented material. Is it any surprise, then, that most of those experts are themselves men? It’s sorely unfair, yes, but Obst is right; the tail is most definitely wagging the dog.

What is to be done?

It’s up to us, the audience, to tell Hollywood what we want to see, and every ticket we purchase is a vote, an expression of that want. So, to the women, I say, if you want to see the end of the Reign of Marvel (and who doesn’t?), and by extension, a probable upsurge of women filmmakers, drag your heels the next time your guy friends or boyfriends suggest you all go see Metalman 6. And to the boys, who seem to be steering the course to doom, I say this: grow up, and fast. Cinema – and your girlfriends – will thank you for it.

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