Greta Gerwig in the context of Womanhood and Hollywood

by Sarah A. Lee

In 2012, ECU released a profile on Greta Gerwig and the mumble core movement. Now, six years later, it seems apt to revisit Greta Gerwig in a renewed context, after Lady Bird(2018).

Since the Academy Awards were founded in 1929, there has only been one woman that has won the distinction of Best Director, Katheryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. There have been only five women nominated, and that list includes Greta Gerwig for Lady Birdin 2018. Rather than being solely an Oscar’s issue, the gender disparity in the Oscars is representative of the entertainment industry as a whole.

In 2016, Women comprised 9% of directors on the top 250 domestic grossing films and 12% of directors on the top 500 domestic grossing films, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

Maureen Dowd of NYTimes interviewed more than 100 women and men which made clear that Hollywood feeds a culture more viable for men. Interviews recount fears of crying on set as well as the common fear that women are considered too emotional, while male directors are considered just creatives.

For comparison, while Bigelow’s HurtLockeris gritty and fierce, and necessarily so, it begged the question: Do women directors need to have a masculine conception of good directing to be acknowledged?

Chris O’ Falt of Indie Wire explores the masculine conception of good directing. At its essence, it is the perspective that award-winning movies need to be glorious and strong. This could also be examined under the lenses of a director themselves, that they are generals of their army. Alec Baldwin notes that the ‘‘clichéd paramilitary nature’’ of directing runs deep. ‘‘They call it shooting,’’ he says. ‘‘Its groupings are called units. They communicate on walkie-talkies. The director is the general. There is still the presumption that men are better designed for the ferocity and meanness that the job often requires. I’ve worked with so many male directors. They should open a window and let more women in.’’

It is because of this context that Greta Gerwig’s nomination holds such importance. Gerwig has noted, “There’s a tendency to over-prepare in the sense that you need to be so qualified. For women there’s a fear that someone will call you out. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s difficult to learn if you say you don’t know”. This may have been a factor for Gerwig creating her own film school via her experiences. She grew up in Sacramento (where Lady Birdtakes place) and attended Barnard in New York. After she graduated, she had her beginnings in the mumble core movement as an indie darling actor, starring in movies like Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007),known for improv acting and go-with-the flow feel. Before her directorial debut, Gerwig appeared in 25 films and has written and starred in indie hits such as Greenberg(2010) and Frances Ha (2013). Being an actor on set allowed for Gerwig to learn from directors and cinematographers first hand.

Lady Bird’s directing is at odds with historical Oscar nominations for Best Director. It has a subtle touch that manifests over time rather than over the audience’s head. The subject matter is achingly feminine and honors motherhood and womanhood in both a vulnerably nostalgic and straight-faced way.Lady Birdexamines a tumultuous and relatable mother-daughter relationship and the coming of age of that daughter in Sacramento. It deftly intertwines and introduces to the audience a bevy of characters, and each scene is imbued with Gerwig’s distinct directorial voice. It is also her directorial debut, having previously co-directed Nights and Weekend.

Nowadays, Greta Gerwig is directing Little Women, financed by Sony and bringing together some Oscar favorites such as Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Saorise Roan, Emma Watson, and Timothée Chalamet. It is an adaptation of the novel by Louisa May Alcott and scheduled to be released in 2019 by Columbia Pictures. Gerwig was brought on initially as a screenwriter in 2016 to rewrite the script’s draft, and is now at its helm as director.

Finally, here at ECU, we are passionate about bridging the gender gap and host a special panel, SheShoots, a lively and stimulating discussion composed of the female filmmakers in competition for ÉCU 2019. We also have a special award for Excellence in Women’s Filmmaking.

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