Frances McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night and used her moment to champion women. She also used a legal term that’s little known outside of Hollywood.
“If I could have all the women stand up with me in this moment,” McDormand, who won for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” said. “Look around, everybody, look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell, and we all have projects we need to finance.” It was a moment that galvanized the crowd and spoke directly to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which have called for safer and more inclusive workplaces.
And then she added: “I have two words to leave with you tonight: Inclusion rider.” The internet and Twitter
was buzzing with the question: “What is an inclusion rider?” Women in the movie industry were quick to tweet explanations. It’s a contract where, usually, an A-list star or director specifies racial and ethnic diversity or inclusion among the cast and crew. Only 11% of the highest-grossing movies were actually directed by women last year.
Greta Gerwig was the only woman nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards. Introducing the nominees, actress Emma Stone said, “Here are the four men and Greta Gerwig nominated for best director.” (“Wonder Woman,” which was not nominated for an Academy Award, set an all-time box office record for a movie directed by a woman.) Movies made by women with strong female roles, experts say, could not have come a moment too soon.
The Warner Bros.
movie made $821.8 million worldwide on a $149 million budget. It also had the biggest opening weekend for a female director (Patty Jenkins) and, afteryears of movies with male superheroes, marks a cultural and commercial shift. Starring Israeli actress Gal Godot, it’s the fourth in the DC Comics universe, and the first three performed poorly compared with Walt Disney’s
As actress Gal Godot told Glamour: “She is not relying on a man, and she’s not there because of a love story. She’s not there to serve someone else.” Gerwig spoke of the challenges of trying to get a film made as a female director. “For women, there’s a fear that someone will call you out. It’s a double-edged sword,” she said last year. (On Sunday evening, Gerwig lost to Guillermo del Toro, who won both Best Director and Best Picture for “The Shape of Water.”)
Such representations sends a positive message for girls. More than one-third of teenage girls experience depression, more than twice the rate of boys at that age, a recent study that analyzed interviews with 100,000 children and published in the journal Translational Psychiatry concluded. Some 36% of girls either are depressed or experienced depression between the ages of 12 and 17, compared to just 13.6% of boys. These differences originate in childhood.
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Some 36% of girls either are depressed or experienced depression between the ages of 12 and 17, compared to just 13.6% of boys, according to study of more than 100,000 children.
The Oscar-nominated female-directed movies are the latest corporate push to reach young women, from “The Hunger Games” series — which spurred an interest in archery by young girls in real life — and the female heroines Rey and Jyn from the “Star Wars” franchise to Saoirse Ronan’s single-minded, down-to-earth character in “Lady Bird,” says Sharalyn Hartwell, owner of Hartwell Communications, a marketing firm in San Francisco. “It is critical for women of all ages to see narratives that are aspirational and relatable,” she says.
It’s possible to be kind, loving, strong and successful, and question the orthodoxy, Hartwell says. “That’s what girls really need to hear and will have a lasting resonance. They can embrace all the aspects of themselves: A teen who likes science and makeup and sports and boys, and that’s ok and wonderful.” The whole “third wave feminism” movement is really about women being able to embrace all sides of them, she adds.
Some experts say movies and the massive media storm around certain blockbuster hits can have an impact in raising awareness about issues related to minorities, women, the LGBT population, racism, sexual violence and even how we talk about mental health. Case in point: Jordan Peele, director and writer of the horror movie “Get Out” (2017), who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, told The Verge there was an Obama-era “post-racial lie” being perpetuated that his movie addressed by examining the kind of racism that lurks just below the radar.
Approximately 31% of black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and LGBTQ girls aged between 14 and 18 have survived some kind of sexual assault or sexual violence.
In 2016, the World Economic Forum released a list of movies and television dramas “that changed the world,” including “A Girl in the River” (2015) directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy about honor killings of girls, “Cathy Come Home” (1966) directed by Ken Loach, a TV series that led to a public debate in the U.K. about homelessness, “Philadelphia” (1993) directed by Jonathan Demme, which dealt with a lawyer’s (Tom Hanks) struggle for justice after he contracted HIV/AIDS and was fired.
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What’s more, television shows and movies with strong and more diverse female lead characters help educate young boys and teenagers, Hartwell says. Nearly one-third (31%) of black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and LGBTQ girls aged between 14 and 18 have survived some kind of sexual assault or sexual violence of some kind, according to a survey of more than 1,000 girls released in April by the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
A strong female lead who doesn’t exist to support a male lead sends a message to young men too, Hartwell says, whether it’s a coming of age story like “Lady Bird” or a superhero like “Wonder Woman.” More diverse representation of women in movies impacts a generation of boys who are more open to taking on traditional “female” roles within households, families, and relationships, she adds. “Millennial dads are more active parents and you see millennial dads very passionate about shaping this perspective for their daughters.”