Kathryn Bigelow absolutely deserved her Best Director Academy Award because she’s an awesome director. But before anyone praises the Academy for awarding it to her, there are a few things I need to point out.
How the Academy works
If you’re under the impression the Academy is a carefully selected group of studious filmmakers who carefully pore over every film being considered to make thoughtful choices, let me disabuse you of that notion. The Academy is pretty much anyone with a film career who wants in. Every year, the organizers behind the awards send out “For your consideration” copies of the movies being considered to the agents and business managers of the Academy members. The Academy members rarely take them, instead generously allowing the agency interns and lower-rung employees to keep them. The Academy members most likely never see every movie being considered. Few of them take their voting seriously.
They vote for names, not movies. Since women have rarely acquired the connections in this industry to make themselves into names, women have never seriously been considered. Kathryn Bigelow is not the first woman to earn a Best Director award; she is the first to get enough press to make the Academy think, “…no women? Really? Er, that doesn’t sound liberal. We’d better pick her.” Some glass ceilings do actually get cracked in this manner, so I’m hopeful. But let’s not have anyone arguing that Hollywood is getting better.
Particularly in the light of how women were treated at the recent Academy Awards.
Butt-slappin’ little girlin’ fun times
When Alec Baldwin closed out the Academy Awards on Sunday night by slapping director Kathryn Bigelow squarely on the backside, that pretty much said it all.
It was Ladies’ Night in a Boys’ Town… But did the orchestra need to follow Bigelow’s win of her long-deserved best director prize, for “The Hurt Locker,” by playing the old Helen Reddy song “I Am Woman”?
When Miley Cyrus and Amanda Seyfried arrived on stage to present the Best Original Song award, did they have to be intro-ed with “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”?
Hollywood probably thought the songs were highlighting how woman-friendly they are, and I’m sure Alec Baldwin’s, um, gesture was meant to be ironic. But it all still reminds me of the time I was working for a man who neurotically hated women and chose me to be his token Well-Treated And Respected Woman so when Human Resources came to investigate multiple allegations of gender discrimination and harassment, he could hold up my employee file as an example of just how good he treated gals when they actually deserved it. (Yes, I was the one who started the complaints. I’ve never been very smart about taking advantage of a good thing for me at the expense of others.)
Let’s be excited for Kathryn Bigelow. But don’t think this means Hollywood is opening up to women. They just recognized a cheap, easy Grand Gesture they could make that might help silence the opposition.