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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

how to suppress women filmmakers

For those who don’t quite understand how Kathryn Bigelow is being dismissed or belittled as a filmmaker because she’s a woman… herewith a look at some of the reactions to The Hurt Locker, which closely follows the track Joanna Russ laid out in her 1983 book How to Suppress Women’s Writing [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.]. (Thanks to reader Hank for reminding me of Suppress in connection with Bigelow.)
She didn’t direct it.

[So far, I haven’t been able to find anyone suggesting that someone else — someone else male — actually directed The Hurt Locker, but please do let me know if you stumble across anyone putting forth such a notion.]

She directed it but she shouldn’t have.

How can a woman like Bigelow EVER understand what it’s like to be a soldier on the EOD detail? I mean, really. Much less a sheltered Hollywood guy like Boal.

But I have a real problem with a female director, who just can’t understand WHY men will do brave things (brotherhood, duty, rewards) and would come at it with a female sensibility. Which is like putting Sam Peckinpah on a Jane Austen movie. Or Quentin Tarantino (with say Michael Madsen as Mr. Darcy and Christopher Walken as Mr. Bennet) directing Pride and Prejudice?

link

She directed it but look what she directed about.

It’s really a study in etiquette. Do you kiss the guy’s ring finger or wait till he turns his back and dump a magazine into him, because his bravado is surely going to get you killed?

link

She directed it, but she only directed one of it.*

I have to start by saying I’ve found Kathryn Bigelow’s career to be a bit of a disappointment. I think Near Dark is pretty much perfection. … That being said, I think it’s been down hill for her ever since. …

So, I’m happy to report that The Hurt Locker is, in my opinion, a real comeback for her.

link

*[This one is iffy, since it doesn’t explicitly connect the singular success of this film to Bigelow’s gender. I’d be happy to replace it with a better example, if someone comes across one.]

She directed it but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art.*

to call this a war movie, let alone a good one, is absurd. It’s Point Break in Baghdad; it’s Top Gun meets Jarhead. There’s nothing wrong with fun action movies, but it doesn’t work when set in the very serious context of the Iraq war. I am sure I thoroughly grasp everything The Hurt Locker has attempted to convey, which is why it makes it all the more bewildering that I seem to be the only one who really didn’t think this movie was good. Maybe I’m missing something, though, and I’d love it if it could be explained to me. If it’s to show the stress that war places on soldiers, or even just a portrait of a soldier addicted to war, The Hurt Locker fails miserably.

link

*[Also iffy, since it doesn’t explicitly connect what the writer sees as the faults of the film to Bigelow’s gender. I’d be happy to replace it with a better example, if someone comes across one.]

She directed it but she had help.

Hollywood filmmaker KATHRYN BIGELOW almost passed up the chance to direct award-winning war film THE HURT LOCKER – until her ex-husband JAMES CAMERON convinced her to take on the project.

link

She directed it but she’s an anomaly.

everything about her speaks of refinement and class: She has a salad and a latte, easily exchanges mots bons and not so bons with a reporter. She has the great listener’s ability to focus and seem to weigh a response. She nods, possibly laughs, her eyes alight with engagement. Ugh, she’s so damn perfect it’s quite annoying. She can probably hold her liquor, discuss art, socialize with senators and duchesses, shoot skeet and dance an incredible rumba.

So how would she know so much about HIM? He’s a knuckle-dragger, a curser, a drinker of shots and cans and bottles with worms in them. He hurts people; he blows things up; he breaks things and takes things. He knows about guns. He’s part animal, smells like a hog and couldn’t tell a teacup from an athletic cup. He’s driven by a duty he can’t articulate, and if you give him snark, he’ll take your teeth out without an uptick in pulse rate.

link

and

the “good for a girl” backhanded praise continues to dog her. At the Q & A after a screening of The Hurt Locker at AFI Dallas, moderator Gary Cogill commented that his favorite book about the Iraq war was written by a woman (The Long Road Home by Martha Raddatz) and then asked Bigelow a question that essentially amounted to, “Isn’t weird that The Hurt Locker is so good, since you’re a girl?” Bigelow deflected the question, but the issue came up again when an audience member who introduced herself as a member of Women in Film gushed that it’s “almost miraculous” that Bigelow has “embedded” herself in the making of “big boys movies.” This is when I decided it was time to leave; as i made my way out, I heard Bigelow respond that he choice of material is chiefly “instinctual” and not motivated by a desire to step where she supposedly doesn’t belong by virtue of chromosomal difference.

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and

Bigelow is a Hollywood anomaly. Most obviously, of course, as a female director in a town that discourages them, she’s one of an endangered species. What makes her really interesting and unusual, however, is that she has spurned the romcoms and other chick-flicks that remain the only preserve of so many female American directors. Bigelow has macheted her own path through the Hollywood jungle, making intense, stylised action thrillers such as Near Dark, her early cult vampire thriller; Blue Steel, in which Jamie Lee Curtis played a tough rookie cop; Point Break; Strange Days, with Ralph Fiennes, a disturbing millennial crime thriller; and 2002’s K-19: The Widowmaker, about the crew of a malfunctioning nuclear submarine. As The New York Times noted: “No one will ever say she directs like a girl.”

link

She directed it BUT…

the fact that this war movie is directed by a woman, Kathryn Bigelow – and one with impressive unusual creds for making gritty, testosterone fueled films about men (Point Break, Strange Days, The Widowmaker) that delve into the raw male psyche at that, is inconsequential. Bigelow disappoints here, as a director for hire simply following rules in a man’s game. Never mind that a substantial number of female soldiers are part of these bomb detection crews, there’s not a military woman in sight.

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and

It’s odd to think that a woman has crafted one of the better war films to come along in recent memory (odd, yet not implausible), but if there was a female director who could pull it off, Bigelow would be on the short list.

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  • Nancy

    This article makes me sad.

  • Hank Graham

    I’d actually kinda like to see the Tarantino version of “Pride & Prejudice” with Michael Madsen as Mr. Darcy and Christopher Walken as Mr. Bennett.

  • Jim Mann

    She directed it but she had help.

    Hollywood filmmaker KATHRYN BIGELOW almost passed up the chance to direct award-winning war film THE HURT LOCKER – until her ex-husband JAMES CAMERON convinced her to take on the project.

    Some good points, but this one seems a bit off. It doesn’t say she had help. It just says that Cameron talked her into doing it, which I think is very different.

  • LaSargenta

    Ok, so it wasn’t Emma, but good ole Sam (Peckinpah) DID make a pretty emotional film with none of the “standard” Peckinpah violence called Junior Bonner that bombed, BOMBED, at the box office. I’ve seen it several times and think that McQueen was great and it was an interesting character study.

    And, too, considering that Jon Favreau rocked Iron Man even though he wrote Swingers, too, I’d like to think that people are allowed to step outside of their boxes THAT THEY DIDN’T EVEN BUILD! ‘Kay?

    Now, certainly, Ms. Bigelow didn’t build the Female OMG Director Box. I can’t bear to follow the links. It is to depressing. And I mean depressing. I don’t mean saddening, nor disheartening. I mean totally American Psychological Hegemony DSM7 Depressing. Seriously. I’ve talked about this stuff sometimes with a therapist.

    Kudos to Bigelow for keeping keeping-on!

  • JoshDM

    Now do one about how to suppress women film reviewers.

    We all know your real name is Steve, “MAJ”.

  • P.

    I can’t wait for Bigelow to win the Oscar for Best Director.

  • Paul

    Maybe we shouldn’t look at female directors as an endangered species, rather as a new species struggling for its place in the ecosystem despite the many predators and competitors. And since Hollywood, and all art, is about memes instead of genes, the struggle takes place memically.

  • Ide Cyan

    Alice Guy-Blaché begs to disagree about female film directors being a new species.

  • Cyndy

    That was depressing.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    …Christopher Walken as Mr. Bennet.

    Looks like someone has never seen Sarah, Plain and Tall.

  • LaSargenta

    Listen, the guy who wrote that also hadn’t actually seen a lot of Peckinpah, either. Probably just Wild Bunch and The Getaway.

  • Alma

    Jesus Christ…we’ve got a long way to go huh…

  • JosephFM

    She IS an anomaly though. I mean…insofar as she even was given the chance to make this kind of movie. That’s hardly a knock against HER though.

  • Lisa

    Don’t forget those amazing episodes of Homicide Life on the Street that she directed. I actually really like Blue Steel – that’s a underated film, imho.

    Also what about Bronwen Hughes who directed Stander she went from Forces of Nature to the quite brilliant Stander, (although I’m only aware of her directing episodes of Hung since then), I’m sure it was hard to get that project off the ground.

  • MaryAnn

    She IS an anomaly though. I mean…insofar as she even was given the chance to make this kind of movie. That’s hardly a knock against HER though.

    Bigelow was not “given the chance” to make this money. This is NOT a studio film — it’s an independent film. Bigelow raised the money herself because no one in Hollywood *would* give her money to make movies.

    She TOOK the chance herself. No one took a chance on her or on this movie.

  • Muzz

    This topic made me wonder what happened to Mimi Leder. Looks like she’s gone back to TV from the IMDB record.

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