Into the Limelight: Women and the Screen

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Why does gender inequality still exist in film and television? Why are there so few female directors? Why has there been a rise of female stories in film and television in recent years? Are gender stereotypes in kid’s films harmful to their development? What does a ‘female’ film mean? Should a male director be able to tell a story about a women’s experience?

Even in 2019, women are still the minority in both film and television. It is frustrating and disheartening to still read articles that state Tricia Tuttle, who holds a senior position at the BFI, believes ‘white men still make the decisions in films’. Though I had always been aware of the shocking gender disparity within the film industry, I don’t think I understood or appreciated the extent. It is difficult to ignore that a study analysing the top 100 grossing films of 2018, only 4% of the films were directed by a woman. But crucially it is also difficult to stop reading more and more shocking statistics about women and the screen industries.

The KCLSU Radio Show ‘Into the Limelight’ launches this week and will ask, discuss and debate questions about the female experience within the entertainment industry, both behind and in front of the camera. This radio show will become a space for conversation between the hosts, Tabby Bunyan and myself, Lola Rees, and our guests’ each week, who will range from academics, directors and film reviewers. Each week one specific question will drive the discussion, with examples from both new releases and older films, and other recent developments in the industries. We want to know why women find it so hard to break into film and television, and if a change really is occurring.

We want to put the women of film and television into the limelight. I am in awe of the female television creators and filmmakers who are not afraid to confront female stereotypes and to portray female stories in their full uncensored and truthful glory.

My favourite pieces of television shows and films are the ones which highlight the female experience, which are normally ignored and forgotten. As a teenager trying to find relatable female characters who were as complicated as I felt, I began my love affair with writers such as Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, and Tina Fey. Lena Dunham’s “Girls” in particular, has been hit by persistent criticism for having characters that weren’t perfect or likeable enough. This is exactly why I was so consumed by the show whilst I was in the thick of being a teenage girl; I wanted to see challenging, confusing, sometimes horrible but also the most incredible characters who were female because these women surrounded me in my life. The list of these bold and gutsy women in tv and film goes on and on, and each week we hope to bring to attention both up and coming and established women in both industries.

In the post-Weinstein era, I think it is important to continue the conversation about the persistent issues women face in the industries. The tone has shifted in the last few years; women are able to speak more freely about the abuses of power and initiatives like ‘Times Up’ are enabling women to seek justice. Whilst the statistics still demonstrate that the industries have a long way to go to achieve equality, we are in a period of transition and these issues are being confronted head on out in the open. Frances McDormand, an acting hero, says this far more eloquently than I can during her acceptance speech for her second Oscar for Best Actress at the 2018 Oscars. I implore you to listen to her rallying call for change within the industry.

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