At this point in the month, you’ve probably heard of a little thing called Cannes – you know, where Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner have been busy hanging out on yachts in tiny bikinis. Cannes is a city on the French Riviera that is also home to the Cannes Film Festival. It’s one of the biggest movie festivals of the year, and takes place over 10 days, featuring dozens of new films that will be released over the next year. The event draws in hundreds of famous celebs and movie stars who speak at press conferences and make appearances, saying things that usually become news stories. This year, a particular press conference featured actress Jessica Chastain, who spoke out about something super important in Hollywood: the need for more female storytellers and directors.
Jessica was on the jury for Cannes this year (basically, that means she gets to make important decisions about the movies and acting), and so she had a platform to speak about what she watched. Instead of just playing nice, Jessica took this opportunity to try to make some sort of difference. She brought up the fact that Hollywood still isn’t representing women fairly, and that she was disappointed to see how much the festival was lacking female voices. She made a point to talk about how wonderful the movies were, but she also made a point to say how far we are from being equal when it comes to gender representation in movies.
Among other things, she said, “One thing I got to take away from this experience is how the world views women, from the female characters I saw represented… It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest.” Obviously, I haven’t seen the movies since Gurl.com was, unfortunately, not invited to Cannes this year (maybe next year?!) but she speaks a universal truth: that women are very inaccurately represented in movies, mostly because the writers and directors are men who have no idea how to handle female characters.
She goes on to say: “I hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women I recognize in my day-to-day life…ones that are proactive, have their own agencies, don’t just react to the men around them. They have their own point of view.” PREACH IT, GIRL. I know I can speak for many other woman and girls when I say that we are more than side characters in the lives of men: we have our own stories that deserved to be told. You can hear all of Jessica’s response here:
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 29, 2017
Of course, it isn’t like women are ignored completely in movies. Women are featured in films constantly, but it’s the way women are featured and treated that is unfair. For every trailblazing female film – like Bridesmaids and Wonder Woman – there are at least 30 similar movies behind it, created of male characters. Plus, the women who work behind the scenes are scant, and the ones who are are rarely noticed.
We’re making baby steps, at least: this year, Sofia Coppola won best director at Cannes, which is a huge win for women everywhere, especially in Hollywood. But it’s worth noting that this is only the second time a woman has won that award since the festival first started over 71 years ago. Yikes.
Jessica makes a really important point: we can’t expect every story to be told correctly when they are all being told by old white men. We need the movie industry to accept that women, people of color, and minorities make movies and tell their stories. It’s important to represent these people, since their existence is often overlooked. Sure, we love those movies about guys doing manly stuff and getting away with it, but we see enough of that in everyday life, so it’s time to open up the storytelling to other genders and races.
What do you think about her speech? Tell us in the comments!