Hollywood may not be the shining bastion of liberal progressiveness it would have you believe, and there’s still some very iffy practises when it comes to its female stars.
The last few days have thrown up a spate of famous names – both females and male – speaking out about the sexist experiences they’ve encountered with studios, pay and directors.
Is this a sign that the stars are finally taking things in to their own hands? Could we begin to see a moral shift in the Hollywood system that leads to a fair and just movie making business for all?
If we keep seeing more of the following kind of examples, then we just might.
Chloe Sevigny talks about ‘crossing-the-line-weirdness’ in Hollywood
The Cannes Film Festival has been taking place this week: typically a glitzy, back-slapping red carpet affair.
But it hasn’t been totally rosy. Speaking at a ‘Women in Motion’ panel at the festival, Oscar nominated actress Chloe Sevigny claimed that three “big male directors” had subjected her to “crossing-the-line weirdness” while meeting to discuss roles, including suggesting she appear naked onscreen and offering to buy her some new clothes.
“I remember going to audition for a really big male director and being told ‘You should show your body off more, you should be naked on screen’.”
“I’ve also had the ‘What are you doing after this?’ conversation [and] the ‘Do you want to go shopping and try on some clothes?’. I did not get the parts obviously.”
When asked if she considered this to be sexual harassment, the actress simply answered: “I would consider that Hollywood.” That speaks to an almost institutionalised sexism in Hollywood, and Sevigny’s stories certainly won’t be unique to her.
Moves like this are brave when considering the career implications it could have for an actor or actress, but they are gestures that are clearly needed. It sounds like Hollywood today has in some ways barely moved on from the Hollywood of 70 years ago: something that needs to be put right.
Robin Wright demands equal pay – and gets it
This highlights the very real issue of unequal pay in film and TV, where female stars are typically paid far less than their male counterparts.
“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,'” she told interviewer Judith Rodin at a New York event co-hosted by The Huffington Post.
“I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.'”
Spacey is said to have been making $500,000 an episode in 2014 compared to Wright’s $420,000. That’s still an astronomical sum of money, but the point here is the wage gap between genders, something that surely shouldn’t exist in today’s modern world.
If more stars speak out (they’ve not much to lose, after all House Of Cards couldn’t really continue without Wright’s input), they can begin to close that gap.
Shane Black speaks out on Iron Man 3 villain
This was before he was sent a ‘no-holds barred’ memo from Marvel, however, who told him to change the villain’s sex due to fears that a female antagonist would hurt toy sales.
Speaking to Uproxx, director and co-writer Black said: “We had finished the script and we were given a no holds barred memo saying ‘that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female’.
“We had to change the entire script because of toy-making. Now, that’s not [Marvel Studios president Kevin] Feige. That’s Marvel corporate.”
Depending on your view, this inherent sexism may or may not be Marvel‘s problem (their marketing analysts may have deemed the change necessary, pointing at a societal issue rather than one with the film studio), but the real talking point here is Black’s admission of the problems he had in getting his vision to screen, due to this kind of sexism.
If more stars – both onscreen and off – speak out about their experiences, then more and more will wise up to the issues, pressure can be exerted, and Hollywood might finally have to change.
Main image: Robin Wright in House Of Cards