O.W. at Poplicks recently found my post, Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test and had the following to say about it:
To use her example, if Hollywood has traditionally catered its products to white male moviegoers, it builds an expectation amongst audiences – and executives – that the only successful movies are those that cater to…white male moviegoers. Thus, there is no financial incentive to break the cycle and the very bias that exists helps to perpetuate that bias into the future.
In class, I talk about the relationship between ideology and structure and how ideological bias – the idea that women are inferior, for example – influences structural inequalities – say occupational segregation – that then can be used as “evidence” to support the very ideological bias that helped produce the structural inequality!
I’m quoting and sharing this because I think it states the case better than I stated it myself. The problem is not the demographic numbers; the problem is how the people in charge selectively interpret them, and the circular rationalizations they employ to support the existing ideas. It runs something like this:
Women can’t be leads in mainstream films without costing us profits. We know this because the 14 mainstream films featuring women leads since 1976 were not successful. Except for the ones that were, but they don’t count because they were just flukes. Therefore, we cannot make mainstream (read: “non-chick-flick”) movies featuring women in order to test the possibility that they could be profitable, because we know they’re not.
Imagine the frustration involved in arguing this point with someone who not only believes it, but actually thinks it is logical. That is why I left film. So I could once again have conversations with people who actually understood basic logic and critical thinking. Like, fundamentalists and self-identified racists. I swear, I’ve had more luck critically discussing the fallacies of racism and fundamentalism with their adherents than I ever had with film pros, because overt racists and fundamentalists don’t enjoy the privilege of their beliefs being mainstream. This makes them more open to arguments against their beliefs, and even when they downright refuse your logic, they often acknowledge the rationality of it: “I get what you’re saying and it makes sense, but it’s against my faith/belief/the way I was raised, and I’m not going to change that.” Fair enough. If only the film people spouting this garbage realized their ideas are not unassailable, and proof does need to be provided at some point.
Because where are studies proving that boys won’t watch women-led action films, or that women don’t like sci-fi, or any of the many assertions that keep women on the sidelines when it comes to movies and the movie industry? They keep saying numbers don’t lie, but where are the numbers?
They don’t have them, they can’t provide them, and I don’t even think most of them realize it. Critical thinking is less valued than dogmatism: people who stick to the party line are more valuable than people who ask where our current assumptions came from and whether or not they’re still relevant. Attempts to apply critical thinking are more often than not interpreted as attacks on one’s ideas rather than a straightforward, pragmatic attempt to find the best possible solutions and innovations.