Martha Lauzen: studies of Women in Television and Film
May 28, 2014 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Martha M. Lauzen is executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film and on the film and television faculty at San Diego State University. The center conducts an extensive agenda of original research on women working on screen and behind the scenes in film and television. Lauzen is the author of annual studies of women working in film (The Celluloid Ceiling) [2013 PDF] and television (Boxed In) [2012-13 PDF], as well as numerous articles examining women’s employment patterns and representation. See also: Films 4 2 interview with Lauzen (2003), and Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test (2008, Jennifer Kesler for The Hathor Legacy)
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
on the film and television faculty at San Diego State University (...) and Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test

This tension this expresses, between the trade school function and the humanities function of film schools, is fascinating, and I can tell you, frustrating.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:39 PM on May 28, 2014


Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test

And they keep claiming that Hollywood is dominated by "liberals"... maybe "neoliberals", economics-wise...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:54 PM on May 28, 2014


All film schools "teach" (which is a stupid concept to begin with - you learn how to make film by making films) is how films have been done before. You watch films - a shit ton of them. And it's primarily white men who have made movies historically, especially in cinema's formative years. Also in our culture it's boys that are audacious, visually fixated, and obsessed enough to want to make films, so film programs are dominated by them. All my professors in screenwriting classes taught me one thing: write what you know. You can't create a work of art about shit that is irrelevant to you, especially when you are a kid.

Now what's more important to note is the people who produce movies. They're the ones responsible for the cinematic landscape - and they are mostly white men. They not only will prioritize projects which resonate with them, but they also know from their data (which they DO collect and analyze very carefully) that the biggest consumers are dads with families in tow. Nobody will buy $50 worth of popcorn and soda, together with $50 in tix the way a dad with a couple of kids in tow will. Not to mention the possibilities for products sold through commercials, toys, franchising, etc.

So if you're a feminist or what not, and want that cinematic landscape to change, instead of funding "centers for study women in television and film blah blah blah blah" go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you.
posted by quirkyturky at 11:25 PM on May 28, 2014


Huh. Best horror movie I've seen recently not only passed the Bechdel test, there was practically no male characters at all (just Casper van Dien as human plot device). It was taut, creepy and there was no romance to speak of, just some sisters going through a haunted house mystery. One of the things I appreciated the most about it was that it didn't have a dumb romance subplot shoe-horned in.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on May 28, 2014


So if you're a feminist or what not ... instead of funding "centers for study women in television and film blah blah blah blah" go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you.

Hear THAT, ladies? No need to think for yourselves - a MAN will think for you! You're WELCOME!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:44 PM on May 28, 2014 [8 favorites]


go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you.

Who goes to the movies?
Turns out that a whopping 52% of the moviegoing public is women. In fact, “Females have comprised a larger share of moviegoers (people who went to a movie at the cinema at least once in the year) consistently since 2009.” That’s right. The majority of people who go to the movies are women, but we’re seeing stories that are about men 85% of the time.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:45 PM on May 28, 2014 [12 favorites]


Quirkyturky, it might behoove you to look at and engage with this material so that the bombast you're spouting has some substance and some direction, rather than serving just to perpetuate tired "received wisdom."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:33 AM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


So if you're a feminist or what not, and want that cinematic landscape to change, instead of funding "centers for study women in television and film blah blah blah blah" go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you.

Scarf more Coke to get more Pepsi, whether you're a feminist or a whatnot. Right on.

This whatnot salutes your fearless analysis.
posted by Wolof at 6:08 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


And it's primarily white men who have made movies historically, especially in cinema's formative years

I feel like there was a post here about Alice Guy-Blaché, early woman filmmaker, but I can't find it.

Aha, she turns up in this thread that talks about some early women filmmakers.
posted by emjaybee at 6:46 AM on May 29, 2014


[Folks, there are probably a lot more interesting things to discuss about this post than quirkyturky's "go be an obedient fucking consumer" advice (also? flags before reactions would have helped here).]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:57 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone should write a movie where the entire plot is understood one way, unless you pay attention to two women talking to each other about something not a man, whose dialogue reframes everything you've seen and/or will see.
posted by johnofjack at 7:11 AM on May 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Alice Guy-Blaché, early woman filmmaker

I wanted to do a postdoc on this lady, but primary sources were terribly difficult to find.

She is pretty much the great forgotten person of early film.
posted by Wolof at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thing that frustrates me the most is that the people with power to green-light projects blame the audience for their decisions, and then when something that challenges their limitations manages to break through, it turns out that they've totally underestimated the audience. People of all races can identify with Olivia Pope. Teenage guys think Katniss Everdeen is a bad-ass. 8-year-old boys love to sing "Let It Go" over and over again. You can make a goofy supernatural conspiracy thriller about a non-whitewashed version of US history, and it will appeal to audiences of all races. You can cast trans actors to play fully-developed trans characters. I don't think the problem is as much audiences as the industry's low opinion of audiences.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:55 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


johnofjack, your comment reminds me of an episode of Community in which Abed's entire plotline takes place in the background of other scenes. That could be an interesting experiment on a larger scale.
posted by Georgina at 8:01 AM on May 29, 2014


So if you're a feminist or what not, and want that cinematic landscape to change, instead of funding "centers for study women in television and film blah blah blah blah" go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you.

I question the premise here - wouldn't buying what they market only reinforce their continuing to market things the same way? I mean, Coke didn't change its formula because it was enjoying an increase in sales.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


go be an obedient fucking consumer and scarf down the shit they've got and they will tailor it for you

That does seem a little counterintuitive.

I know there are women producing, are they doing a better job? Do they have to produce blockbuster action films in order for anyone to take them seriously?
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2014


Getting back to the main point, I have to think that this is something that will change only with time/old assholes dying off and with the surge in women-produced films outside of major studios. So long as the studios have a chokehold on movies, then we are at their mercy.

(By the way has anyone seen Belle? I hear good things.)
posted by emjaybee at 11:40 AM on May 29, 2014


Oh god guys what a fucking response.

My point wasn't women are worse, my point was: women don't feel as inclined as men to make films. Not because they aren't "allowed", but because not as many of them want to do it. Why? Because films are products of overbloated ambitious male egos - men are fixated on impressing each other with epic endeavors to compensate for the weaknesses they hide inside. The same thing makes a boy want to make films as what makes him want to go to war, or shoot guns, or play cops and robbers. A man wants to "matter" more than anything else. Women don't make as many films as men because they aren't as stupid as they are. Women don't make films as much, and as big, because they know better.

As to the consumption thing - there is a lot more to it than just the raw data - as in numbers of people seeing films. Of course just as many women go to the fucking movies as men - they're half of the population. But are they in charge of making the decision of which movie they will be seeing? It's most likely the man that's making that decision. And, again, it's not because the man is "better" or abusive but because the man is more insistent on getting his way, and more likely to throw a fit if he doesn't get his way. A woman will go with whatever because she's more focused on the immediate relevant realities around her.

To illustrate my point, men who want to make films are ego-maniacs just like the opera obsessed Klaus Kinski in Herzog's Fitzcarraldo:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y63784JvYA
posted by quirkyturky at 3:48 PM on May 29, 2014


Women don't make films as much, and as big, because they know better.

You could have said a century ago that women don't write novels as much, because they know better and just aren't as ambitious. It would have been equally as facile.
posted by dng at 4:14 PM on May 29, 2014


> My point wasn't women are worse, my point was: women don't feel as inclined as men to make films.

No, I understood that the first time. My suggestion was, since you are interested enough to engage, you should very definitely read this material, the resources page is great, because your understanding of this state of affairs, as expressed, is very low on nuance and sophistication, and guess what — academics who study this very thing, from the context of industry, in the framework of reception, and even specifically focusing on the metadiscourses in film education, are making interesting, research-based interventions. Women Are Risk Averse is not a stopping point for this investigation.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


To illustrate my point, men who want to make films are ego-maniacs just like the opera obsessed Klaus Kinski in Herzog's Fitzcarroldo:

....I think the word we're all looking for in response to this tangent of conversation is, ".....Anyway....."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 PM on May 29, 2014


As the father of a young (male) child, I've read a lot of kids books and seen a good bit of kids TV. The lack of diversity is systemic, down to picture books that shape kids views of the world from an early age. I've noticed that most books we have feature male pronouns for anthropomorphized characters of no discernible gender, everything from construction vehicles to woodland animals. Luckily, it's pretty easy to change pronouns in these stories, but it would be great if I didn't have to make a point of doing this myself.

On this tangent, I came across An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books from Teaching for Change (who have an extensive booklist for diverse topics), and "See Jane," the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

I'd be interested to read more about studies of the impacts of such early age material on shaping views and actions of people as they grow up.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:12 AM on May 30, 2014


“The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

Just wondering what kind of scenario this guy has in mind. Hmm.

"Black Swan" was pretty female-centric. Certainly some guy appeal, but it created a pretty powerful statement.
On paper the only guy I'd probably relate to in "Fried Green Tomatoes" is Big George but I liked the whole film. Pretty female centric. And I'm about as stereotypically 'male' as one gets.

So I don't know what "audiance" they're talking about. Tween boys maybe. But that's not borne out by the (above) numbers. So *shrug* yeah, sure seems like they're laying off their own hangups on these imagined philistines.

I don't think the problem is as much audiences as the industry's low opinion of audiences.
Yeah. Self-perpetuation. Maybe they want to just hang on to their jobs and excuse poor work and limit the competition. The film industry does seem pretty nepotistic.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:13 PM on May 30, 2014


« Older Doodal   |   I wasn't referring to you specifically, Mother. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments