Sunday night I had the pleasure of watching the 24 hour play project, which was really quite fantastic and inspiring. That being said, I did find it very interesting that within the first three ten minute plays, a vast majority of the characters were female (as picked out of a hat), and contained nearly every female stereotype I could think of. The first show was about a girl who decided to get pregnant because she was bored, the second play contained four prostitutes, and the third was about two middle school girls in a bathroom dealing with what else- boys, makeup, and periods. I want to be very clear that I do not mean to pass judgement on the value or comedic choices of these plays. I was laughing as hard as the next person, and some of these writers are friends and people I truly respect as artists. And I think if these plays were seen on their own, or even simply not one right after the other, I wouldn’t have had such a visceral reaction, but the fact is that 3 male writers wrote those three plays that were shown one right after the other… and it got me to thinking. Actually, it lead to a very interesting conversation that I had with my roommates (we happen to be four female actors and a female director/screenwriter) in which one of them brought up an interesting statistic (that unfortunately I could not find to back up, but it’s the idea that I’m trying to get at) that only 15% of the time on screen is a female actor not speaking to or about a male. So that means that even when we’re not talking to a man, we have to be talking about men. Now, I don’t think women should never talk about men on screen, obviously that’s something that we actually do! But we also talk about a whole lot of other things… and it would be great if television and film could reflect that more truthfully.
But the thing is- I don’t think it’s as easy as pinning our problems on chauvinistic men- women perpetuate these stereotypes too. There’s this idea that if a movie is about a man, it’s universal, where if the main character is a woman, often it’s classified as a chick flick or romcom and is automatically something less… The problem is that I think women often also subscribe to this idea… I’m even finding this annoying tendancy within myself. My thesis is written by a female writer and features the story of a 25 year old woman and I’ve found myself worrying about male audience members- worrying that they will dismiss it as something less because it is a story about a woman. I’m annoyed that I even have those doubts.
Anyways, this wasn’t the most succinct or articulate blog post but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, and I know other people have been thinking about, and I think it’s something that’s important to cultivate conversation around.