Thelma & Louise Creator Says Television Is A Better Place for Women than Film
1:15 pm, March 22nd | by Meredith Lepore
Academy Award winning screenwriter Callie Khouri, creator of the hit ABC drama Nashville, believes that television is open to much stronger and more diverse female characters than we see on film. Nashville has been lauded for its portrayal of strong women who manage to still be complex and deep even though they are in a traditionally cutthroat field (the country music business.) And when you think of characters like Hannah Horvath on Girls and Jess on New Girl we are reminded of the diversity of female characters on the small screen. Why does TV allow for greater freedom than film?
Khouri talked to HuffPo Women about whether film could become more like TV in terms of representing strong female characters. Keep in mind this woman wrote Thelma & Louise, Something to Talk About and directed and wrote Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood:
“I really hate to say it, but I don’t think it’s possible. I think you can do it in independent film, but I don’t think studios are ever going to do it. I just don’t think they have the will.
Yeah, it’s terribly depressing, but it’s just a sad fact. Movie studios are owned by giant corporations. They care about money, they don’t care about movies. If they can figure out how to get women lined up on a Friday night around the block — and I’m not talking about girls because they do have those people lined up around the block on Friday night for “Twilight” series and “Hunger Games” — when they can figure out how to do that for adult women, then we’ll see [smart movies written about women]. Until that day comes, we won’t. That’s the hard reality.”
And she is right. Studios don’t tend to push for films focusing on female protagonists, though they tend to let women helm male-friendly films. In a piece last year for The New York Times Academy Award-winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Illusionist) wrote “Although women are more than 50% of the filmgoing public, predominantly male decision makers focus on making movies for boys and men, while systematically failing to support stories for women and girls. Female executives need to break this pattern by trusting their own judgments and interests.”
Meghan Casserly of Forbes, in an article titled “Is Television The Best Place for Women In Hollywood?” wrote:
“From Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, whose Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice success has been built on the backs of female characters to new girls Lena Dunham and Liz Meriwether, the small screen is increasingly the space for female screenwriters, producers and directors to showcase interesting female plot lines and characters—without being ghettoized by the trappings of chick-flick labels.”
But television isn’t totally perfect. According to the Center for Study of Women in Television and Film, women make up 26% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography, which is up one point from the previous year and five points from the 1997-98 season. But 68% of all shows don’t even have a female writer on staff.
It’s harder; there are less women looking for work. It’s easier to have an all-white male writing staff,” said Dan Harmon, the creator and former showrunner of the NBC sitcom Community. He was then challenged to hire women for half of the writing staff of the show when it started in 2009 by then-NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad, and he succeeded. The women are out there! They just need to be encouraged.