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Women Seen and Heard: A Hollywood Trend Worth Celebrating

By posted at 12:00 pm on February 14, 2017 29

To be a woman in a movie is usually to be someone’s girlfriend, wife, or mother. If you’re single, you’re probably in a romantic comedy en route to marriage, or you’re in an ensemble comedy, lamenting the fact of your singleness. If you have a job, you’re likely a journalist or an assistant, but if you happen to be the boss, it’s at the expense of your personal life, which you secretly prize more than anything else. You’re probably straight, and you’re probably white. You’re probably quite thin with great skin and a large wardrobe. Your living space is probably very clean and well decorated. You’re probably smiling. Or laughing. If you’re crying, you look really beautiful while the tears stream down your face, and men fall in love with you.

Three movies I saw this year broke free of this mold: Certain Women, 20th Century Women, and Hidden Figures. Their titles could almost be interchangeable. They featured women whose characters, motivations, and desires were not defined by their personal relationships to men, but I can’t say I was aware of that while I was watching. It wasn’t until I stepped away from the films that I realized how radical their characterization was. While I was watching them, I simply reveled in seeing women that I genuinely admired and recognized from life.

Certain Women almost had a different title. Director Kelly Reichardt originally planned to call it Livingston, after the Montana town where it was filmed. While I can see the merits of that title, especially for a film that looks closely at daily life, the small choices and compromises that the characters make are so specific to the female experience that the title Certain Women strikes me as just about perfect. The film, adapted from short stories by Maile Meloy, is structured like a miniature short story collection, and contains three short films about three different women living in present-day Montana. Ancillary characters vaguely link the women, but what really links them is a sense of restlessness. These women have jobs, autonomy, and a certain amount of authority, but they don’t move through the world as freely as they would like. They are reserved because they have to be, in order to get what they want. But that same reserve also leaves them lonely.

The screening I attended to was followed by a surprise Q&A with one of the film’s stars, Michelle Williams. In her conversation, she mentioned that Reichardt had insisted on a cinematography that did not include any “beauty shots” of the spectacular Montana landscape — no gorgeous “big sky country” sunsets, no framing of perfect views. Instead, she wanted the dramatic landscape to exist as it did for her characters; something they lived with and enjoyed, but which did not symbolize freedom, adventure, or conquest. This gave the film a quiet, lingering beauty and a kind of defiance in its unwillingness to engage with or evoke Hollywood’s usual myths about the American West.

In 20th Century Women, Annette Bening embodies quiet defiance in the character of Dorothea Fielding. A child of the depression, Dorothea marries late and has her first (and only) child, a boy, at age 40. The marriage doesn’t last and so she raises her son, Jamie, on her own.  This puts her out of step with her generation. She doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, but she tries. She buys an old house in Santa Barbara and restores it. She takes in younger, more radical boarders: an earnest, new-age mechanic (Billy Crudup), and Abbie, a 20-something photographer recovering from cervical cancer (Greta Gerwig). The film takes place in 1979, when Jamie is 15, and smack dab in his awkward teenage years. Dorothea listens to his records, Talking Heads and Black Flag, in an effort to understand him. Feeling at a loss, she enlists two younger women to help Jamie grow up and become a man. (Or is it to help her let him go?) One of the women is her housemate, Abbie, and the other is her son’s unrequited crush (Elle Fanning). Both women end up providing Jamie with a sentimental education that Dorothea doesn’t necessarily welcome and/or entirely disparage.

Every once in a while, a character in a movie reminds me so completely of my mother that I feel like I’m dreaming it. Dorothea is in her mid-50s, which is how old my mother was, the last time I saw her. She doesn’t really look like my mother, but her wardrobe reminds me of my mother’s, especially in the way she mixes comfortable shoes and pants with conservative blouses and jewelry. Dorothea’s demeanor also reminded me of my mother — a mixture of idealism and impatience, curiosity and constraint, delight and disappointment. It’s all tempered by a reserved deadpan that the other characters in the film sometimes mistake for humorlessness. Jamie apologizes for her, saying, “she’s a child of the Depression.” It’s his way of acknowledging that she was born too early to reap the benefits of women’s liberation. But the younger characters were born too early, too, and the film seems to understand that for women, freedom is always hard-won.

Which brings me to Hidden Figures, a film that tells the true story of the black women who helped to put Neil Armstrong on the moon, based on a book of the same title, by Margot Lee Shetterly. (And recently highlighted by my colleague, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, in her Year in Reading.) If it’s unusual to find a movie dominated by female characters, it’s downright rare to see film with black women in lead roles, not to mention a mainstream Hollywood film. And Hidden Figures is definitely a crowd-pleasing movie, with a lot of Hollywood moments, including Kevin Costner demolishing segregated bathrooms with a sledgehammer — a scene that was fabricated to show a white male character being a good guy. But the overwhelming message of this film, to borrow from a sign I saw at the Women’s March, was: Can you believe these women have to put up with this shit? In Hidden Figures, you meet three undeniably gifted people who also happen to be black women. One, Katherine Johnson, is a genius. The other two women, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, are mathematicians who do computations for NASA. They have a lot to offer to the space program, but they are given jobs at NASA only because the powers that be are so desperate to win the race to the moon that they are willing to ignore gender and race when seeking candidates. Even so, the “colored computers” are forced to work in separate offices, use separate bathrooms, lunch in separate cafeterias, and drink from separate coffee carafes. They also receive separate, smaller paychecks.

It’s a blatantly sexist and racist situation, and there are a lot of show-stopping scenes to highlight that. Like when Mary (Janelle Monáe) petitions the court to attend night classes at an all-white school so that she can become an engineer. Or when Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) solves a crazy-long equation on a chalkboard to illustrate a new approach to a problem that has stumped her white male colleagues. Or when Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) earns a promotion by showing her white male bosses how to program the new, room-sized computer they’ve recently installed. I enjoyed these moments, but it was the smaller scenes of female solidarity that won me over. There’s the time when Katherine stays late and the other two wait for her to drive her home; the time when Mary is feeling down because she worries she’ll never be allowed to become an engineer and her friends throw an impromptu dance party to cheer her up; and then there’s the opening scene — which you can see in at least one of the film’s trailers — in which Dorothy fixes her broken-down car while the other two women deflect a nosy police officer. Finally, I loved the romance that blooms between Katherine and a veteran she meets at her church. Katherine is a widow with two small daughters. She lives with her mother and is not looking for love. But then the perfect man comes into her life and proposes marriage. It’s an utterly conventional subplot, but progressive in this scenario because Katherine is not asked to choose between her work and her personal life. She’s allowed to have both and is not conflicted by this dual identity.

Hidden Figures has exceeded expectations at the box office. It outsold Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on its opening weekend, a film that also features a female lead. It’s a sign of progress that two recent, popular films star women, but it’s worth noting that even when women are the lead characters in film, they speak only slightly more than the male characters and receive less screen time. When women are not the lead, or when they co-lead with a male character, they are seen and heard even less. These findings are according to studies undertaken by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis founded the institute to fight unconscious gender bias, specifically in films targeted to children and families. She works with film executives to create stories that are more balanced between male and female characters. Her prescription is simple: put women on screen more often and allow them to speak. That’s it. The female characters don’t have to be role models or hold positions of power. Roles don’t even need to be created specifically for women — more often than not, women can be cast in parts written for men. The point is for girls and women to be seen and heard on screen as often as boys and men are. It’s not a lot to ask and yet every time I see a movie in which female characters are allowed even half of the narrative, it feels like a small miracle.





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29 Responses to “Women Seen and Heard: A Hollywood Trend Worth Celebrating”

  1. gargoyle
    at 12:35 pm on February 14, 2017

    Okay, so I totally support movies like this. But I do want to point out that that this refrain of “we finally have a movie that does X” is more about selling tickets to a certain demographic than it is truthful.

    It’s really cool that Star Wars has a female hero… but Ripley is way more bad-ass, realistic, and developed than what’s-her-face, and Aliens is from 1979! Yeah, it’s cool to see female scientists, but Dana Scully debuted 25 years ago. Jodie Foster is a scientist and the main character of Contact. These aren’t isolated incidents. There’s so many movies and shows with strong women characters, especially in the 90s (Buffy, Voyager etc etc etc).

    The author points out that there’s a made-up scene in Hidden Figures that portrays a white male doing something benevolent. But there’s a lot of made up stuff in Hidden Figures. Computers (as in the people who used to check calculations) weren’t all geniuses. That’s a big misunderstanding of the role, which actually involves lots of lookup tables and grinding out long derivations. It should be obvious to anyone with a brain that the role of the women is exaggerated for dramatic purposes. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Creating feel-good drama by mining the history of racism and sexism is something Hollywood has been doing for years. But I’m always amazed at how it’s presented like this is suddenly all so novel. It’s certainly the first time in history that media, from fiction to movies, won’t stop bashing you over the head with it, that’s for sure.

  2. Sean H
    at 2:37 pm on February 14, 2017

    I don’t know, what happened to people being familiar with the term “pandering.” Mills has talent as a director but 20th Century Women has major story problems and no protagonist (Gerwig’s character was by far the most interesting but didn’t get much screen time). Hidden Figures is a blatant money grab, celebratory of identity politics, barely movie-of-the-week caliber. Reichardt is a legitimate artist, and not because she happens to make films about women but because she has a grasp of the form and a sharp eye and gets great performances in films that don’t rely on predictable plot moves. Gargoyle’s comments above are sharp; it’s about marketing and manipulation when you start praising things for being “inclusive.” It’s far better to praise things because they’re good, worthy of praise based on their merits as art.

  3. Dave Coulier
    at 4:16 pm on February 14, 2017

    Why can’t we celebrate a film being good *and* being inclusive? Obviously a work of art should not be praised solely for having a diverse cast, but what’s wrong with using diversity of perspective/subject/cast as a metric of things to appreciate in a film? It’s a curiously convenient position for white men to feel films should merely be judged on their merits as art, since the default film features white men. As a thought experiment, if 99% of films had black women as protagonists, would you be equally blase about a film’s content, or would you maybe feel like greater diversity would recommend the art? This complaint sounds very similar in tenor to the hoary old “I don’t see color” bandied about by white people who don’t have to think about color and don’t want to start.

    And even if you count releasing like one mainstream film a year starring black women as “pandering,” (lol) where’s the harm? “Art” is not being damaged here. You could, in fact, make the equally strong or stronger argument that art–film in this instance–has been damaged over the course of decades by almost exclusively focusing on one group of people to the exclusion of virtually everyone else.

  4. gargoyle
    at 11:36 am on February 15, 2017

    Wow. I love the slippery slope of your argument. “You don’t like the way diversity is being used as a blatant marketing tool” -> “So basically you’re a racist who hates diversity!”
    Like whoa – you caught me!

    “You could, in fact, make the equally strong or stronger argument that art–film in this instance–has been damaged over the course of decades by almost exclusively focusing on one group of people to the exclusion of virtually everyone else.”

    I think you missed my point Dave, which is that this precisely isn’t the case. Hollywood has been putting out strong female and minority characters for a long time (see the list I gave off the top of my head in 5 seconds). Many of those films have been really great. Could there be more? Sure! It’s just now it’s a marketing point, rather than just a side-effect of telling stories. It’s selling to millennials who are constantly virtue signaling. It’s the displacement of any sort of standards, characterization, or realism, to the one-eyed god of identity politics. And there *is* something distasteful about that most thinking people can recognize.

    Also Dave, being racist and saying “how convenient it is that someone of [ethnicity] believes [political opinion]” is not a convincing argument. Keep that in mind for the future!

  5. teedle
    at 12:04 pm on February 15, 2017

    No one called you a racist. No one even implied it.

    The idea that telling stories from differing POVs is “just marketing” is a silly argument, however…not to mention one you haven’t backed up in any way. Saying that there are plenty of films with female stars by citing Alien sort of proves the point, no?

    But please, explain how any of the movies listed above are examples of “the displacement of any sort of standard […]” I mean, that would be terrible (clutches pearls)!

  6. teedle
    at 12:09 pm on February 15, 2017

    In fact, what is troubling is this idea that a film might have an all-black cast is “just marketing” when at the same time, Hollywood producers use the argument that a certain character must be played by a white actor because that’s what audiences demand…

    But of course, that’s not “just marketing” or a “displacement of any sort of standard,” is it?

  7. Moe Murph
    at 12:45 pm on February 15, 2017

    Ironic, but not surprising that the message of an essay on the topic of “seeing” and “hearing” women, written from the POV of a woman writer, is so profoundly unseen and unheard.

    The term “virtue signalling” has been perverted from its original, 2015-vintage sly poke at conspicuous do-gooders, into a catch-all phrase lobbed at anyone with the gall to call out a wrong with the slightest sense of empathy.

  8. steven augustine
    at 12:45 pm on February 15, 2017

    To be fair, Dudes and Dudesses, any cultural artifact that cost more than a hundred thousand (or so) dollars to make and distribute is going to be a calculated baklava of market-friendly hooks (sex +”Cinderella story” + Zeitgeisty characters and/or milieu) with a few harmless breadcrumbs of “Art” stuck to it. The late ’60s/ early ’70s spoiled a few of us because “Art” itself became a marketing gimmick, fleetingly, and we got fairly wide distribution of Cassavetes, Godard, Fellini, Truffaut, Roeg, Herzog, Russell, Varda, Wertmueller… even Hollywood itself was giving us Kubrick, Polanski, Scorsese, Malick and pre-deterioration Woody Allen films (which were still quite good as late as the mid-’90s). But that was a blip. And, sure, Diversity is the gimmick du jour… but why come down hard on *this* Hollywood film for being a Hollywood film?

    On the “plus” side: “White Males” have enjoyed an endless supply of goopy, Hollywood-style image-boosting for roughly a century… most of it wasn’t Art, but it was pretty good for the target audience’s Ego. I don’t see why “Black Females” can’t get to feel cool/ valorized/ mythopoetic, sometimes, too. Especially in light of the insidious psychic damage that poverty-porn like “Precious” causes. If no critic trumpets “Invisible Figures” as a “masterpiece”, what’s the problem?

    Whether you guys appreciated it at the time, or not, you had (and most often still have) *your turn* at having your asses slurped by the latexed tongue of the Entertainment Factory… don’t begrudge this token attention paid to Others. No Tom Cruise/ Russell Crowe/ Brad Pit/ Ryan Gosling/ Harrison Ford/ George Clooney/ Tom Hanks (et al) vehicle was ever anything much better than formulaic nonsense either. I don’t watch those films and I won’t watch the film in question, either. But I’ll walk through twenty blocks through the rain to watch a restored print of “The Seduction of Mimi”…!

    You should read back issues of Jump Cut if you want to revel in the long-lost aura of the culture of *serious* films, Man! Those were the days…

  9. gargoyle
    at 1:08 pm on February 15, 2017

    my comment already addresses the comments below it pls try to relevantly address peaaaace

  10. steven augustine
    at 1:20 pm on February 15, 2017

    @Gargoyle

    “But I’m always amazed at how it’s presented like this is suddenly all so novel.”

    A Hollywood movie focusing on three Black female leads portraying characters valued for their intelligence: yes, in fact, that’s pretty novel. I think your argument rests on the crux of fudging the diff between “Female Lead” and “Black Female Lead”. Very big diff! Shouldn’t be fudged.

  11. Dave Coulier
    at 3:01 pm on February 15, 2017

    Gargoyle,

    It’s pretty telling that you take any criticism (here and in other threads) as being called a racist, and that any attempt at discussion of white privilege or racial disparities in art has you respond “White people bad!” As though that’s what anyone was saying.

    I don’t disagree that Hollywood panders–my point (and I think others above) is why does it stick in your craw when it panders in the form of one movie with black female leads, and not in the form of thousands upon thousands of goopy crap films about the valor/goodness/beauty/grace/etc. of white people? Why are Hollywood’s usually Olympian standards only being compromised when there’s a black lead? I saw the same form of criticism in the thread about Junot Diaz’s BASS editorship, and it’s a hilarious (and very obvious) double standard: if Junot Diaz picks a multi-cultural assemblage of stories, it must be identity politics and bias that degrades standards. However, if TC Boyle picks a bunch of boring white writers, it must be because they’re the best, with no bias involved.

    I mean, c’mon man, this stuff is pretty obvious.

  12. Dave Coulier
    at 3:12 pm on February 15, 2017

    Also Gargoyle, I didn’t miss your point about there being tons of films about women and minorities, I just disagree with it. The self-congratulatory back-patting that accompanies films that present women (and especially people of color) as being something besides interesting props for men (and especially white men) may be annoying, but it happens for a reason: because even in 2017, those films represent a relatively small portion of the overall pie. A non-Tyler Perry directed film featuring three black female leads remains (unfortunately) a remarkable thing.

  13. gargoyle
    at 3:30 pm on February 15, 2017

    Steve – you make a good point about distinguishing between female leads and black female leads. I guess one of my problems is that they are so often inflated! But this article is explicitly about the former, not the latter, so I think my original point about how the novelty is over-exaggerated stands.

    What I’m always amazed at by people like Dave is that they someone both a) innately know how the “representation pie” is being sliced up (cause we need more of x,y,z to such and such degree!) AND b) know how it *should* be sliced up as well. Black women are 6% of the population… so if we were just choosing randomly, films would have 3 black women leads 6% of 6% of 6% of the time…

  14. gargoyle
    at 3:31 pm on February 15, 2017

    *conflated not inflated – and Steven not Steve – sorry!

  15. gargoyle
    at 3:43 pm on February 15, 2017

    Let’s do a little something I like to call math.

    In 2009 Academy Awards started doing 10 nominations for Best Actress. That’s 70 nominations for Best Actress since 2009 (when it expanded from 5 nominations to 10). Now, there have been 4 black women nominated for Best Actress for their leading roles since 2009 (source: wikipedia). That may seem low! It is! Only 4/70 (~6%) of all nominations for leading actress are black women! They are so underrepresented at the Oscars! Black women make up a big chunk of the US population… well, actually, about ~6%… so actually that’s… proportional… oh wait…

  16. Dave Coulier
    at 3:58 pm on February 15, 2017

    Gargoyle,

    That’s a silly dodge. I’m obviously not arguing for a quota system in movies (though sure, I’d like to see Hollywood release more diverse product, in many different senses). I’m responding to the idea in the two initial comments that started this thread, namely that when Hollywood releases a film with mostly female or minority cast, it is “pandering” and “virtue signalling” and standards have been abandoned. This is quite clearly a ludicrous double standard, as I assume you and the other poster have no problem with the mountains of pandering dreck produced starring the likes of Ryan Reynolds. I’m questioning why a debatably bad film starring women of color is what gets your dander up, and I’m also wondering why diversity of character/experience cannot be a point (not all the points, just one) in favor of a work of art, why it is immediately to be dismissed as pandering and identity politics, beyond the fact that you just seem to be generally annoyed with anything remotely characterizable as PC.

    Note that I am not saying “white people bad” here, or calling you a racist.

  17. Moe Murph
    at 4:15 pm on February 15, 2017

    Hello Millions Readers: Yet another piece hijacked. Anyone out there willing to jump in with some observations focusing on, say, the author, her POV, how it did or did not jibe with your own experience? For example:

    When I was a kid watching adventure flicks, I usually took POV of male lead, unconciously. I found the “girl” parts boring. Ladies? Anyone else take this tack? Curious!

  18. steven augustine
    at 4:37 pm on February 15, 2017

    @Gargoyle

    “Steve” works. Also, the subtler “Evestay” (for top secret discussions).

    My biggest “concern” about “Black Women in Film” is not so much the number of “Black Female Leads” that turn up every, um, decade… but the natures of the various roles. I mean, if, during the rare opportunity that a lead role opens up for a “Black Woman”, it’s kind of a pity if the role is the same old less-than-mythopoetic representation. I think the cultural vitamin that “Black Women” are starved of, publicly, in “The West”, is the chance to see themselves as larger than life, and wonderful in all the Zeitgeisty ways the culture values in a given year, in a media projection that everyone else in the country is seeing/celebrating, too. This is powerful cultural magic, and “White Women” from Garbo to Keaton to Julia Roberts to Jennifer-Whosis (et al) have embodied this at various times… great advertizing for “White Women” as a brand. “Black Women” are locked at a level far below that, playing sassy friend/ maid/ victim/ criminal etc. And this affects the psychology of the country (or hemisphere)… and of “Black Women”… without a doubt. True for “Asian Women”, too, but I wouldn’t guess that they’re suffering quite as badly as a result. “White Women” are locked at a level of possibility, in Hollywood’s transparent subconscious, lower than “White Men” but higher than “The Other”. It’s an endless feedback loop that only some strong new (script writing) Imaginations can break…

    @Dave Coulier

    I’ve suddenly realized I can’t tell the thin-lipped, beady-eyed Ryan Gosling, and the thin-lipped, beady-eyed Ryan Reynolds, apart. Not that I’ve ever seen either in a film. Not even sure how I know their names…

  19. Sean H
    at 7:42 pm on February 15, 2017

    I do think representation and percentages matter here. To say that 99% of films are “white male” or asking for some sort of black representation out of measure with being commensurate with their % of the total US population is part of what makes this discussion so myopic and (quite literally) “black and white.” There is ABSOLUTELY work to be done race-wise in Hollywood and in indie film and in television. But if anything, African-Americans are over-represented (especially compared with Asians and Latinos).

    For example, ask the average person on the street to name you a black actor and you’ll get a laundry list: Denzel, Wesley, Cuba, Sam, Morgan, Forest, etc. Notice a trend? Hint: You know them all from their first names. Black actresses, maybe not quite at that level, but pretty close. Now try it for Asians. Ask that same person on the street and you’ll hear “Jackie Chan,” some other martial arts actor or Asian stereotype, or maybe Lucy Liu or “that girl from The View” if you include actresses. The #Oscarssowhite or “Black people are underrepresented” POV is already really, really dated!

    Heck, I think if you asked that same Average Joe/person on the street to name the most famous PEOPLE in America period, you’d get a list that could be as high as 50-70% black! Barack and Michele Obama, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, maybe even Condi Rice and Colin Powell. As for the literati, heck, before Bob Dylan, the ONLY living American with a Nobel Prize for literature was a black woman! So if 50-70% of the most famous Americans are black, and blacks constitute maybe 12% of the US population, shouldn’t the discussion move beyond black/white?

  20. Moe Murph
    at 8:15 pm on February 15, 2017

    Hi, Moe Murph, what a fascinating prompt!

    I just remembered a reaction I used to have when the female characters in a film let me down. I would get bored, fall asleep, and dream up a new story, in which, instead of being the girl left back home during WWII, my character would train as a ninja spy. Then the usher would wake me up when he was sweeping the theater after the movie.

    Take care, Moe Murph! Really hope lots if people respond to your prompt!

    Mwah!
    Future Moe Murph

  21. teedle
    at 12:18 pm on February 16, 2017

    OK:
    “Let’s do a little something I like to call math.

    In 2009 Academy Awards started doing 10 nominations for Best Actress. ”

    No, not really. The academy has done 5 actors nominated in all categories. Best Picture was the category expanded to 10 possible nominees.

    Second: “Black women make up a big chunk of the US population… well, actually, about ~6%… so actually that’s… proportional… oh wait…”

    Oh wait. Are Penelope Cruz, Charlize Theron American? No? Then why include that? Because it fits your narrative?

    Third, why even analyze Oscar nominated actresses since 2009? Does that prove some sort of point about representation in cinema? Does it prove your point that having more diversity is somehow removing standards? I don’t think it does. If you think that film has done a good job with representing different sorts of people, that’s an opinion that I doubt many share and one you haven’t backed up in the least, no matter what sort of weird data you stretch to fit your argument.

  22. teedle
    at 12:31 pm on February 16, 2017

    Stupidity with “Math”
    Number of Black women nominated for Best Actress Oscars since 2009: 4
    Number of Meryl Streeps nominated for the same: 4!
    Number of foreign nationals!: 14!

    Truly shocking stuff.

  23. gargoyle
    at 1:09 pm on February 16, 2017

    Only replying to teedle cause he/she/zhe pointed out correctly that the Best Actress nominations are 5 per year, not 10. (I thought that changed in 2009 to 10, but I was wrong, it’s still 5).

    So that means actually that black women have been nominated as best actresses at 12% since 2009… a huge overrepresentation. But that’s a small sample… Let’s redo the calculation starting from 1985. That’s 31 years, 5 nominations each – so 155 nominations. Of those nominations, 7 have been black women… so that’s about 4%. That’s slightly lower than proportional representation in the population, of which black women make up about 6%. So let’s also consider best supporting actress to increase our sample size. Same number of nominations since 1985, 155, but with 16 nominations! That’s a bit over 10%… so of the 310 women nominated for best leading or supporting actress since 1985, 20 have been black. That’s exactly 6% – perfectly proportional representation since 1985!

    Facts don’t care about your feelings.

  24. Moe Murph
    at 1:17 pm on February 16, 2017

    By sheer serendipity (Cruising from #MarchforScience to film The East to Writer/Producer/Actor Brit Marling interview) found a quote that resonated:

    “As a kid, I was going to the cinema and not seeing the type of women I saw every day in my own life,” she says. “I think about things my little sister has to deal with, the struggle it is to be a young girl in this world, and it makes me determined to play interesting women. I have a hard time being a part of, or even thinking about, an image system that has oppressed women.” (Brit Marling)

  25. H.A.
    at 8:30 pm on February 16, 2017

    BTW, interesting essay Hannah. And Moe, I love your appropriate to the article Brit Marling quote. Damn, she is smart, creative and incredibly interesting to watch.

  26. Grady
    at 3:34 am on February 17, 2017

    I wish I could write two or three paragraphs about this article. Probably use more words than the article as well. Because I’m annoyed by black women in mainstream film.

  27. steven augustine
    at 4:18 am on February 17, 2017

    You need to work on your muddled (sock puppet) sarcasm and focus on learning to make interesting comments. Not a single commenter in this thread indicates that he/she/it is “annoyed by black women in mainstream film”.

  28. Lydia Kiesling
    at 11:40 am on February 17, 2017

    It looks like there isn’t a lot more to say in this thread, so we will be deleting follow-up comments unless they add something substantive that relates to the topic of the essay.

  29. Lydia Kiesling
    at 11:45 am on February 17, 2017

    (Also, we’ll be deleting some of the off-topic comments.)

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