Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

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  • Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

    During the podcast, John and Craig discussed a 2009 NYT article, Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater.

    The article references a study exploring why women playwrights have a tougher time than men in getting their work to the stage. To test if this was a result of gender bias, the same stage script was sent to male and female theater directors and literary reps -- one with a male name, the other, female name.

    The surprising results -- the script with the female name was judged more harshly by women directors and reps. Not their male counterparts. According to the researcher, “Men rate men and women playwrights exactly the same.”

    Craig and John touched on how this appears to support some female stereotypes (bitchy, jealous). Then Craig and John both mentioned it concerns them as Dads with daughters -- which I'm very glad to hear they're looking at as Dads. Then Craig Mazin asked, "What is that?"

    I think the answer is more complex than it first appears. A small part has to do with the Queen Bee syndrome. A phrase coined in the 1970s after studies published in Psychology Today. In my opinion, the Queen Bee Syndrome applies more to office environments where a woman, who has climbed her way to a top position, makes efforts to keep other women in subordinate positions because she wants to be the only woman in the boardroom. This does exist. And as a woman I've experienced it in office settings.

    However, I think the results of this theater study -- which was about men and women assessing the quality of what a woman writes, not day-to-day office politics -- has less to do with the Queen Bee syndrome and more to do with women holding other women to a higher standard than they hold men. Why?

    From my own experiences, I have found that women simply have higher expectations of other women when it comes to being representatives of our own gender. When a woman acts out negatively, or does poor work, other women tend to feel she's making all women look bad; she's not being a good ambassador for all women. I've realized I've done this myself, unconsciously, and only became conscious of it in recent years.

    I think it has something to do with the fact women have had a subordinate role in our society for so long and progress is still slower than we'd like. We want to keep the Superwoman mystique going because otherwise we may all lose ground.

    As a result, I think women will judge the general work quality of other women more harshly than the same quality work produced by a man.

    If a female gatekeeper (director, rep) allows mediocre (ETA: or just average) work by women writers to move forward we're risking that somewhere down the line someone is going to point out this script written by a woman sucks and its suckishness proves "all" women can't write.

    Women are acutely aware of the dangers in confirming negative stereotypes about women, like, "Women can't write as well as men." And it's not an unfounded concern. All societal minorities cringe when someone from their "group" appears to legitimize a negative stereotype because there's a real possibility everyone in the "group" will suffer the backlash.

    My point is in part supported by another point made in the NYT article by a woman playwright:

    “Most startling was the reaction to women writing — and I think of my own work — about female protagonists and the unlikability of those characters.”
    I think, in general, women (some consciously, some unconsciously) resent seeing unlikable women characters publicly displayed because "it makes us all look bad." And we may resent it even more (consciously or unconsciously) when a woman writes an unlikable female character. If our secret flaws and failings are revealed through unlikable female protags we can't maintain the Superwoman myth. We must be Superwoman -- how else can we rise up the male-dominated ladder if we cannot appear "better" than men in every way? What will happen if everyone finds out we're not "better" or "worse" because we have a vagina -- we're just our individual, flawed human selves?

    This is the psychological burden of all societal minorities -- the fear of being judged against stereotypes before we're judged as individuals. ETA -- to clarify, this fear of legitimizing stereotypes leads to a situation where "we" will judge members of our own "group" more stringently than those outside of our "group" judge them.
    Last edited by sc111; 10-10-2013, 09:03 AM.
    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

  • #2
    Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

    That's an excellent analysis.

    I think the 'higher standard' issue is the most likely explanation. There's also a clear idea of a 'woman's film' (book, play etc) which people instantly look down on, whereas few people instantly think 'oh, this is another one of those men's films..'

    Like John and Craig I'm a father of daughters and stuff like this does slightly undermine the many times I bore them with inspiring speeches about how the world is theirs for the taking. In our own modest field, I feel one answer is the DIY route - Allison Anders once said something like 'digital is the medium for women and brown people' and maybe it's the case that next generation of filmmakers will be so used to getting their own work done that the concept of gatekeepers is kinda obsolete anyway. We can all dream...
    My stuff

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    • #3
      Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

      Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
      That's an excellent analysis.

      I think the 'higher standard' issue is the most likely explanation. There's also a clear idea of a 'woman's film' (book, play etc) which people instantly look down on, whereas few people instantly think 'oh, this is another one of those men's films..'

      Like John and Craig I'm a father of daughters and stuff like this does slightly undermine the many times I bore them with inspiring speeches about how the world is theirs for the taking. In our own modest field, I feel one answer is the DIY route - Allison Anders once said something like 'digital is the medium for women and brown people' and maybe it's the case that next generation of filmmakers will be so used to getting their own work done that the concept of gatekeepers is kinda obsolete anyway. We can all dream...
      re BF -- the one thing I'm concerned with (as I raise an 11 y.o. girl) is girls growing up sensing other girls/women judge them more stringently, hold then to a higher standard, then get in the habit of judging themselves more harshly and holding themselves to a higher standard than men. It perpetuates the problem.

      I've always noticed women are more likely to say, "I would never do that!" when making a negative judgment of another woman's choice or behavior. As if she has to make sure everyone knows that other woman is not representative of herself and she must distance herself from her.

      Yet I can't recall a man ever saying the same when negatively judging another man. Men are more likely to say, "He's an a-hole." without concern the a-hole's behavior reflects badly on himself. It's interesting, no?
      Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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      • #4
        Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

        I'm glad you introduced this topic, SC.

        The first thing I thought of when I listened to them talk about this was some of the meetings I've had with female producers. A number of times, a female producer has said to me "I love the idea of a female lead in an action film. I think it's a shame that we don't have more of them. But you know, the myth is that men don't want to watch them..."

        I don't think a male producer has ever said this to me. I don't know if they've been thinking it, but they've never said it. It's almost as if women are afraid that if they champion a female project, the men in the office will accuse them of being a feminazi or something.
        Chicks Who Script podcast

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        • #5
          Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

          Originally posted by emily blake View Post
          I'm glad you introduced this topic, SC.

          The first thing I thought of when I listened to them talk about this was some of the meetings I've had with female producers. A number of times, a female producer has said to me "I love the idea of a female lead in an action film. I think it's a shame that we don't have more of them. But you know, the myth is that men don't want to watch them..."

          I don't think a male producer has ever said this to me. I don't know if they've been thinking it, but they've never said it. It's almost as if women are afraid that if they champion a female project, the men in the office will accuse them of being a feminazi or something.
          It's really complex, Emily. And I think as women we should look at this issue in ourselves, first. I suspect what you describe above has less to do with her fearing she'll look like a feminazi and more to do with why women tend to take less risks than men.

          Perhaps the producer's unconscious fear is that if the script fails as a film at the BO it somehow confirms the stereotype women writers and producers just aren't as good as men in the same position. ETA: It also confirms the stereotype women protags aren't interesting to men.

          We're walking on eggshells all the time.
          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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          • #6
            Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

            Originally posted by emily blake View Post
            I'm glad you introduced this topic, SC.

            The first thing I thought of when I listened to them talk about this was some of the meetings I've had with female producers. A number of times, a female producer has said to me "I love the idea of a female lead in an action film. I think it's a shame that we don't have more of them. But you know, the myth is that men don't want to watch them..."
            Isn't a "myth" something that isn't true?

            So were they saying that it isn't actually true, but because people believe the myth these movies don't get made?

            Did it ever occur to them to refute the myth (with the many available examples, from Alien to Gravity) in in order to push these projects forward? Or do they just smile and let this myth-mongering slide?
            "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

            Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

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            • #7
              Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

              Originally posted by LauriD View Post
              Isn't a "myth" something that isn't true?

              So were they saying that it isn't actually true, but because people believe the myth these movies don't get made?

              Did it ever occur to them to refute the myth (with the many available examples, from Alien to Gravity) in in order to push these projects forward? Or do they just smile and let this myth-mongering slide?
              How about fear of a failed film with a female protag confirming the myth?
              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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              • #8
                Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                How about fear of a failed film with a female protag confirming the myth?
                One failed film confirms it, and any number of hits don't refute it?
                "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

                Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

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                • #9
                  Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                  Originally posted by emily blake View Post
                  I'm glad you introduced this topic, SC.

                  The first thing I thought of when I listened to them talk about this was some of the meetings I've had with female producers. A number of times, a female producer has said to me "I love the idea of a female lead in an action film. I think it's a shame that we don't have more of them. But you know, the myth is that men don't want to watch them..."

                  I don't think a male producer has ever said this to me. I don't know if they've been thinking it, but they've never said it. It's almost as if women are afraid that if they champion a female project, the men in the office will accuse them of being a feminazi or something.
                  But I think that part of this is that the female producer feels perfectly comfortable discussing this supposed bias with you, because of your shared gender. Whereas the male producer is naturally maybe going to be more reticent to verbalize it to you, because he might be thinking that you might think he's being a part of that problem, even if he isn't. But I bet you he's thinking it, even if he isn't saying it or supporting it. Just like I would think a black producer would be more comfortable discussing a possible racial bias of some kind with a black screenwriter than a white producer would.
                  "The Hollywood film business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." Hunter S Thompson

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                  • #10
                    Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                    Originally posted by LauriD View Post
                    One failed film confirms it, and any number of hits don't refute it?
                    I'm not addressing that Lauri. It's a different topic and issue we've discussed elsewhere.

                    I was exploring answers to the question: why would a woman gatekeeper judge a woman writer's work more harshly than a man judges a woman writer's work.

                    I offered my theory in the first post.
                    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                      Originally posted by LauriD View Post
                      Isn't a "myth" something that isn't true?

                      So were they saying that it isn't actually true, but because people believe the myth these movies don't get made?
                      That's exactly what they're saying. I wish I had only heard this one time, but unfortunately I've heard it a few times from different women. In their defense, it's quite possible that they've tried to champion these projects and been shot down. But it's so disheartening to hear over and over.
                      Chicks Who Script podcast

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                      • #12
                        Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                        Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                        During the podcast, John and Craig discussed a 2009 NYT article, Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater.

                        ...
                        This is the psychological burden of all societal minorities -- the fear of being judged against stereotypes before we're judged as individuals. ETA -- to clarify, this fear of legitimizing stereotypes leads to a situation where "we" will judge members of our own "group" more stringently than those outside of our "group" judge them.
                        Interesting post sc111,

                        I think also it has a lot to do with perception.

                        On a societal level (not specifically in screenwriting) at large women are not minorities. Numerically, they're just not. However, they often times perceive themselves and other women as minorities. Once one perceives themselves as a minority, they are automatically placing themselves on a level not equal to that of majority.

                        If women in positions of power in entertainment stop perceiving themselves as minorities, perhaps they might be less inclined to judge other women more harshly?

                        My guess as to why women in film school are more likely to take roles other than director has more to do with their childhood upbringing rather than skill or talent. How often are boys encouraged to take charge and girls encouraged to take a supporting role? Probably more often than any parents will admit.

                        The good news is that we have the power to change this by how we raise future generations of creative leaders. Especially women have a huge hand in how children are raised. Little boys need to be taught to share the world, not dominate it.

                        At a societal level women are not minorities. Perhaps once we eradicate an 'I am not equal' mindset at societal level, then the entertainment industries will follow suit in the future.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                          Originally posted by mgwriter View Post

                          At a societal level women are not minorities. Perhaps once we eradicate an 'I am not equal' mindset at societal level, then the entertainment industries will follow suit in the future.
                          I mean minorities in terms of societal power as decision makers. Not in terms of population numbers.

                          Our US population is 51% female. Are you claiming that 51% of the positions of power are held by women? Of course they aren't.
                          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                          • #14
                            Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                            Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                            I mean minorities in terms of societal power as decision makers. Not in terms of population numbers.

                            Our US population is 51% female. Are you claiming that 51% of the positions of power are held by women? Of course they aren't.
                            Oh of course. But one thing I'd like to see women take more responsibility for is fact that they are majority population, so if they want things to change power-wise, they've got the numbers to change things. On top of that women are primarily responsible for raising the next generation of men. Don't raise your sons to be discriminatory toward women. You got the majority numbers. Use them. You got the power to shape future generation. Use it.

                            But I bet when millions of men and women go to movies this weekend, the majority of the time women will end up seeing movies that men want to watch. Hence movies geared toward males tend to do better. Women have dominant numbers but choose to submit to what men want. Who's fault is that, men?

                            We live in an era where physical strength is less important than mental strength than ever before. Women need to stop choosing subordinate roles.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Answering Craig Mazin's Question: "What is that?" Scriptnotes Podcast 112

                              Originally posted by mgwriter View Post
                              Oh of course. But one thing I'd like to see women take more responsibility for is fact that they are majority population, so if they want things to change power-wise, they've got the numbers to change things. On top of that women are primarily responsible for raising the next generation of men. Don't raise your sons to be discriminatory toward women. You got the majority numbers. Use them. You got the power to shape future generation. Use it.

                              But I bet when millions of men and women go to movies this weekend, the majority of the time women will end up seeing movies that men want to watch. Hence movies geared toward males tend to do better. Women have dominant numbers but choose to submit to what men want. Who's fault is that, men?

                              We live in an era where physical strength is less important than mental strength than ever before. Women need to stop choosing subordinate roles.
                              Can you see this post sounds like you're exemplifying my theory that women judge other women more harshly than men do?

                              Here it sounds like you're holding mothers to a higher standard than fathers:

                              On top of that women are primarily responsible for raising the next generation of men.Don't raise your sons to be discriminatory toward women.
                              And here you say:

                              But I bet when millions of men and women go to movies this weekend, the majority of the time women will end up seeing movies that men want to watch. Hence movies geared toward males tend to do better. Women have dominant numbers but choose to submit to what men want. Who's fault is that, men?
                              You're saying women somehow have to put "the women's cause" before their own taste in films. Worse, you're more than implying women override seeing what they want to please men. And I think the BO numbers we've discussed in the past prove women don't do this.

                              Which reminds me of when I was criticized by women for not seeing Bridesmaids to "show support" for other female writers and artists. It didn't matter that I don't like gross out vomit scenes starring men either. I had to override my own taste in films and see Bridesmaids "in support of women."
                              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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