When self-proclaimed ‘film buffs’ discuss their favourite directors, the names thrown into the mix are Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock, or Steven Spielberg. They’re all older white men. Now, this isn’t to dismiss their works. It’s a simple observation. The fact is, women directors are often pushed out of these conversations, and it tends to be because their films don’t always fit the ‘drugs, sex, rock and roll’ vibes that ‘film buffs’ stray towards.
Instead of singing the praises of these (often overhyped) male directors, I’m going to look at some women directors. Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, blew me away. It’s a wonderfully fleshed out, multi-dimensional plot, all without ever appearing ‘too heavy’. As someone who grew up watching the 1994 Little Women, directed by Gillian Armstrong, I was anxious to see if Gerwig’s adaptation lived up to my expectations. Gerwig directed a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to see what she directs next.
Anne Fletcher has directed two of my go-to comfort films; The Proposal and Dumplin’ – both of which make me laugh, cry, and fall in love every time I watch them. Chloé Zhao directed Eternals and Nomadland, the latter winning her the Best Director at the Golden Globes. In 76 years, she is only the second woman to win this award. This is great for her, but it also shows a massive disparity. Why is it that women directors have been so overlooked? Since Alice Guy-Blaché was the first woman to direct a film, La Fée aux Choux in 1896, women directors have been pushed aside, and the attention has gone to directors who, instead, seem to get off on humiliating and hurting women.
Tarantino, for example, has been scrutinised many times for his overuse of racial slurs and insistence on showing women being abused. You can suggest this is in the name of art, but when he’s pulling the reverse racism card and defending Roman Polanski, it’s hard to look at this as innocent. Similarly, Hitchcock was criticised for his treatment towards women in his films, with Roger Ebert stating, “sooner or later, every Hitchcock woman was humiliated.” You may be wondering what my point is. It’s simple. Male directors have a history of portraying women savagely or treating the actors like crap. I’d rather see women portrayed as multi-dimensional, realistic figures than victims of the male gaze and some weird torture fantasy. That’s why women directors are so necessary.
I must admit to you, reader, that I’m disappointed in myself. Before writing this piece, I could name two women directors. Only two. And yes, I take responsibility for this, but it’s also a fault of society for pushing women directors to the side lines. As of right now, my goal is to discover more women directors, and truly listen to what their films are saying.