I have something I need to confess. I haven’t seen the movie Sisters.
The movies stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, for goodness sake — and Tina Fey is basically my idol. But I still haven’t made time to go to the theater and see the movie.
And that makes me a god-damned hypocrite.
During my time at Forbes writing about the entertainment industry, I wrote a lot about the disparity between women and men in the world of film. Even though women make up half the population, and half the audience, movies are almost invariably targeted at young men. Movies tell male stories from the male point of view. They are written by men and directed by men. Women are underpaid outliers in this business, and that’s just a sad true fact.
But I’m a believer in the markets. (I mean I worked for Forbes for 15 years; some of that had to rub off.) I’ve always maintained that if more people went to see movies about women, written and directed by women, things would start to turn around. Yes, out of sheer morality Hollywood needs to bring more women into the process. But even if the powers that be are the coldest of snakes, they’ll tell more women’s stories if it means more cash in their pockets.
This past weekend, I had a chance to put my money where my mouth is. My daughter went to the movies with a friend, so I went to see another film at the same time. I could have seen anything. And I chose … The Big Short — a movie where the main female representation is Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining mortgage-backed securities.
I didn’t decide to see Sisters because truthfully, I don’t want to see it that badly. I didn’t think Baby Mama was very funny and the ads for Sisters just didn’t pull me in. I think that Tina and Amy are much better on TV (and in books) than they are in the movies. And I feel kind of awful about that.
But this happens a lot. I have the best of intentions, but then when I actually go to a theater, I see something boy-oriented. Looking back at the movies I saw in 2015 — most of them were boy movies. Only one, Pitch Perfect 2, was directed by a woman.
Some of the films had great female characters. Inside Out delved deep into the head of an 11-year-old girl and had me sobbing and hugging my own preteen. Charlize Theron was the best thing in the amazing Mad Max: Fury Road and Rey is the best character to come along to the Star Wars universe since Luke Skywalker.
But I don’t expect any of these movies will actually move the needle much for women. My friend, Liz Garcia, put it very eloquently on Facebook the other day. She wrote “All movies are the director’s fantasy and I’m tired of watching exclusively straight male fantasy.” All of the above movies were written and directed by men and even when they’re good, they are still male fantasies.
But they are the films I most want to watch. I worry that this is because so much of pop culture is based on the male point of view that the male fantasy has become my fantasy — that pop culture has co-opted my longings. Another friend has accused me of being a boy when it comes to movies and she’s right. For the most part, I’d rather see a comic-book movie than a film about difficult emotions. As I’ve gotten older, movies have become more of an escape from reality for me. I don’t have as much time as I used to to watch movies so I want them to feel fun and invigorating and that almost always seems to mean they were directed by men.
I know that’s because women aren’t given the access, the budget or the trust of a studio to make big films. Because of the inherently sexist structure of Hollywood, women usually tell their stories in smaller, independent films that often don’t even make it to the multiplex.
But I live in Los Angeles where even tiny movies play on the big screen. The problem is I just don’t make it a priority because it kind of feels like a chore. I am better about watching these movies at home but I don’t believe that has as much of an impact as actually paying the full ticket price and going to a theater.
Of course I want to experience stories about women that relate to aspects of my own life. (At the theater recently, Brooklyn had a huge affect on me.) But I’m finding plenty of those stories on the small screen and in books. While I may be avoiding Tina Fey at the movie theater I watch her almost every night on TV. I’m re-watching 30 Rock with my kids and no one voices my inner monologue like Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon. On a recent episode she thought she had found the perfect man in a rich germaphobe who could neither leave the house nor have sex which meant endless hours watching TV and eating fancy food. In other words — heaven.
That’s a fantasy I can totally relate to. Sisters, I’m sorry I haven’t seen Sisters. I’ll watch it at home in bed while eating fancy food when it come out on home video. I’d like to think Liz Lemon would approve.