On Bret Easton Ellis vs Kathryn Bigelow

A few days ago, Bret Easton Ellis made a comment on Twitter about Kathryn Bigelow. He said essentially that she would be mildly interesting as a writer if she were a man, but because she’s a hot woman, she’s overrated.  He was bashed by a lot of writers and a lot of women including Ellen Barkin who called Ellis a ‘shit writer’.  Ellis is not a shit writer and I don’t agree with his sexist statement on Bigelow either.  There is, however discussion over whether women are still taken seriously in this industry.

At the last Writers Talking TV on Lost Girl, Denis and showrunner Emily discussed how most writer’s room have maybe one woman and often times women are brought in to give the female perspective or ‘write chick stuff’.  I’m not going to say there isn’t a problem with how Hollywood views women or their role in screenwriting, but I don’t think it should be made into a bigger deal than it is.

I’m not a feminist, I’m for equality, but that sometimes gives me the unpopular voice.  When I was a freshman at university, I took a philosophy of feminism course and on the first day, I said it’s very likely that eventually the pendulum will swing the other way and white men will become the minority.  Everyone in the class stared me down.  I thought it was a philosophy of feminism course not a feminism course.  I was wrong so I dropped it.  What I don’t like about feminism or any other ‘ism’ for that matter is that it always goes about attacking someone else, blaming them for being the underdog, instead of looking for peaceful solutions to change things.

There will always be people like Ellis, but we shouldn’t get mad at Ellis for his egotistical opinions, that’s what made him a great writer.  In fact, Ellis is one of my favourite writers for this very reason.  He writes like an arrogant prick and we love it because not everyone has the courage to act that way in real life.  Women love it too or they wouldn’t be mad for 50 Shades of Grey.

Hollywood, like most industries are still male-dominated.  The fact is, most films are about men.  It has been balancing out the last ten years or so and now there are a lot of phenomenal movies about women of all ages and many of them written by great female writers. Emily of Lost Girl said herself that most new TV shows were about women now.  The winds are changing.

It wasn’t that long ago when women would change their names on their work to make it appear masculine, right E.L. James and J.K. Rowling?  To be honest, I typically prefer to read books by men.  My favourite female writer would probably Jane Austen, who for all her flowery prose, had a bold opinion and wasn’t afraid to express it – much like a man, much like Ellis.

There are prejudices in Hollywood about women writers, but there are prejudices in every industry about women.  Women arguably only seriously entered the workforce 70 years ago after WWII.  The fact is women threatened men’s jobs then and perhaps that feeling still lingers with that generation and has trickled down.  Things don’t change as quickly as we’d like them too.  Despite the fact that there’s a lot of women in the workforce, we do still get paid less, get objectified, and have to prove ourselves to be taken seriously.  Some of this is down to personal expectations.  Having worked in the corporate world, men are typically more ambitious than women.  At the very least, that is the assumption.  So when a woman is ambitious, she’s a threat.  Fear takes over and, what happens?  Men try to knock her down the easiest way possible.  It’s human nature.

Kathryn Bigelow is a talented screenwriter/director.  She made a film that most women would shy away from and it won an Oscar.  I don’t know what Ellis hoped to accomplish by bashing her, maybe nothing.  He tends to say a lot of random opinionated things on Twitter and we keep listening to them.  Why do we take his comments seriously?  Half the time, he’s on drugs – he says he is.  Why do we let them get us all riled up?  Attacking Ellis for his opinion doesn’t change things.  What changes things is women and men looking objectively at the industry and asking whether there really is a problem, if so, can it be changed and if it can, what are we going to do to change it?

It’s easy to point fingers and blame others for our role in society, much harder to actively change it.  Or so it seems.  It’s actually easier to change yourself than it is to change someone else.  As a woman, one thing we can do is write great work and a lot of it.  The work wins every time.  As a man, appreciate good work regardless of who is doing the job.  I do think too we need to stop allowing ourselves to be victimized by ignorance and fear.  Stop saying that we don’t succeed because of other people and take responsibility for your own success.  Most people in Hollywood are looking for people who do good work regardless of gender.  That’s as it should be.

P.S. I think Ellis’ statement has actually been misinterpreted (at least by me).  I think what he meant was that her work is only praised so highly because she’s a hot woman, because she strays from the normal subject matter a hot woman would typically write.  It’s actually a back-handed compliment…sort of.  He’s saying that her movie, if it had been written by a man would be considered ‘mildly interesting’, but what makes it more interesting is the fact that she’s a hot woman.  I would agree with that as I’m sure most people would.  Overrated?  Well, that’s down to opinion.


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