Jurassic Park, man. Twenty-one years later, it’s still got it.
I can track in my own lifetime the evolution of people of color in the media. It was a huge deal for me as a kid to see Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek. Mae Jemison, my friend and the first African-American woman in space became a scientist and an astronaut because she saw Nichelle as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. Star Trek has always been about diversity, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. That’s very much the appeal of Star Trek to me, that and the hopeful nature of the vision. Blacks, women and minorities have always been a part of Star Trek and, over the 30 years Star Trek has been around, that has only grown and increased.
Star Trek is responsible for a lot of firsts. It had the first interracial kiss. I was the first African-American to direct an episode of Star Trek. We’re talking about the ideals that Star Trek embodies being reflected in the society in which it was created. It’s equally as important that young women see Kate Mulgrew as the captain of the Voyager as it is for young black children to see Avery Brooks as the captain of Deep Space Nine, as it was to see Nichelle on Star Trek or me on The Next Generation. I’m happy to be part of that, to be a part of something like Star Trek, that may make as big a difference in other people’s lives as it has made in mine.”
"Do you know what’s funny? Sometimes I’ll see photographs of myself in the early days of The X-Files and I think that my attitude towards the whole thing was very similar to Kristen Stewart’s,"
“There’s a very similar look in my eye; slightly defiant, slightly bored. All I ever got was: ‘Smile! Smile!’ when I didn’t want to smile. And I really wish that somebody at that time had told me: ‘You know that it’s OK to be who you really are’.”
Gillian Anderson on Kristen Stewart
Men don’t appreciate the amount of self-control women have to exercise in order not to spend their entire lives facepalming.
I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.
But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album - a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.
The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.
So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future.
The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.
It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space. Couldn’t it be that the percentage of women in leadership positions in many areas of society — Congress, law partners, Fortune 500 board members, military officers, tenured professors and many more — stall out at around 17 percent because that’s the ratio we’ve come to see as the norm?
OK, now for the fun part: It’s easy, fast and fun to add female characters, in two simple steps. And I want to be clear I’m not talking about creating more movies with a female lead. If you do, God bless and thank you. Please consider me for that role.
Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?
Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.
And there you have it. You have just quickly and easily boosted the female presence in your project without changing a line of dialogue.
Yes, we can and will work to tell more women’s stories, listen to more women’s voices and write richer female characters and to fix the 5-to-1 ratio of men/women behind the camera. But consider this: In all of the sectors of society that still have a huge gender disparity, how long will it take to correct that? You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly half of Congress is women. But there’s one category where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed tomorrow: onscreen. In the time it takes to make a movie or create a television show, we can change what the future looks like.
There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. We haven’t had a woman president yet, but we have on TV. (Full disclosure: One of them was me.) How can we fix the problem of corporate boards being so unequal without quotas? Well, they can be half women instantly, onscreen. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM jobs today in movies and on TV. Hey, it would take me many years to become a real nuclear physicist, but I can play one tomorrow.
Here’s what I always say: If they can see it, they can be it.
This is also why I don’t like the whole argument of “fandom shouldn’t be held responsible for replicating misogynistic (or racist, or etc) narratives in the media we transform” (often rephrased as “well that’s how it is in the show/book/movie/etc, so…”)
Because, frankly: why not? What - or who - does it benefit to ignore our creative power, in transformative works spaces? What’s the harm in trying to fail better than TPTB? Is it really that difficult?