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The critically acclaimed, Toronto International Film Festival selection, This Changes Everything, is showing in theaters across the US on Monday, July 22nd. This eye-opening feature documentary spotlights gender discrimination in Hollywood – behind and in front of the camera. This Changes Everything features Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Taraji P. Henson, Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, Jill Soloway, Shonda Rhimes, Yara Shahidi, Chloe Moretz, Amandla Stenberg, Alan Alda, Sandra Oh, Anita Hill, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Rose McGowan, Judd Apatow, and Rosario Dawson as they call to further the cause of the radical change necessary for us to move forward as a culture and as a country.
We continuously hear about how male dominated Hollywood is. The ‘Me Too’ movement has shed light on how pervasive and institutionalized the marginalization of women in the entertainment industry is. Reports of sexual harassment and abuse are a symptom of employment discrimination that expose the way that business works in Hollywood. I am aware of the issues and still This Changes Everything was eye opening. It’s one thing to hear that men dominate the industry, but it’s another to hear the statistics, which are staggering! For example the film cites data that shows of the top 100 grossing films of 2018, 85% of writers were male. Women are fighting back, but this is not a gender specific issue. Women’s rights are human rights. This Changes Everything illustrates the common misconception that one female director, female lead, or female writer who wins an award has some how changed the course of history. We have seen women succeed, but it does not make up for the absence of women in the industry at large.
This Changes Everything highlights in pivotal role media plays in our lives and culture. The movie states that the media helps write our cultural narrative and informs our civilization. It is the most pervasive tool to communicate our stories and represent us to each other and the world. The stories and values we see on screen not only shape our view of the world, but of ourselves as well. Women’s creative input is not making it into our cultural narrative and that has negative impacts. This Changes Everything sites studies that show the importance of kids seeing themselves in media on their mental health. Little girls need to see themselves in varying roles during their formidable years. Children have the same idea about what they can be until they are 5 years old and then film and tv change this. This Changes Everything is hopeful we can change this and shares the CSI effect as proof of that. In the years following the highly successful CSI franchise, women in the forensic pathologist workforce has reached nearly fifty percent. Instead of hearing the message the way your body is shaped means more to the world than what you are thinking about, these young women heard you can be a successful forensic pathologist. Imagine what would happen if only half of the roles for women were changed from girlfriends and damsels in distress to successful, powerful women. As parents, and a mom myself, this is a priority for us. We are always looking for new media that portrays girls and women as strong, independent, intelligent, compassionate and curious characters.
This Changes Everything focuses mostly on women in entertainment, but it certainly holds true for all marginalized members of society. White males are overrepresented in American media. Since we create 80% of the media here in the U.S. we are exporting this to the rest of the world as well. This Changes Everything is not just a depressing documentary. It illustrates the path to change giving suggestions and success stories such as the success of FX after CEO John Landgraf set out to hire more women and people of color showing that diversity in the voices and stories we produce is both culturally and fiscally beneficial. It is a tough pill to swallow, but once more Network Executives and Film Studios realize the male gender is constraining excellence in entertainment we all stand to benefit.
There is no easy answer for the consumer because as Lynn Lichman puts it, “misogyny is an invisible sport”. We as consumers can be more conscious of the directors, writers and actors we support with our purchases. We can support movies that pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test. This Changes Everything declares it starts with us! What is good for women is good for everybody.