The lack of gender representation in the film industry is a topic that’s been discussed with great frequency and by people far smarter than I. It’s a problem on the acting side, where actresses who hit 40 are suddenly either grandmothers or just out of the business altogether, while actresses under 40 are stuck in shallow supporting roles most of their career. It’s a problem on the writing side, where writers are taught that women should be seen (ideally, all of them) but never, ever heard. And it’s a problem in the director’s chair, where men are given opportunity after opportunity to break out while women are overlooked over and over and over again.
Yesterday, Paramount Pictures made an offer to writer Roberto Orci to direct Star Trek 3 – and became a hilariously perfect example of how sexism and gender discrimination still run Hollywood.
Producers and executives often say the same thing when confronted by the lack of major female directors in Hollywood: They just don’t have the experience to trust with these big-budget films. It already ignores, of course, that no one has that sort of experience coming into the game; someone just has to take a chance on them. It was always a lie, but it was an easy lie to justify. With Star Trek 3, that isn’t the case.
In the words of critic and Trek fan Devin Faraci, “Literally Paramount is saying a man with no experience is better than any experienced woman in Hollywood.”
Now, that may not be what they intend to say. I doubt this was some sort of scheme. I suspect there was no cackling or mustache twirling. But that is nevertheless what they said. Roberto Orci is one of the least respected figures in Hollywood, a writer whose work is almost universally despised. He pissed off Star Trek fans when he told them to ‘fuck off‘ for daring to criticize the abysmal Star Trek Into Darkness. He pissed off the general public by being a conspiracy theorist who posited that the government was responsible for 9/11, Sandy Hook, and Boston Marathon attacks.
And, most importantly, he literally has no experience doing the job he has been hired to do. He has never been a director. He has not edited films. He has not been a second unit director. There is literally nothing on his resume that even remotely qualifies him for this job. But he’s buddies with some powerful producers, so when he acts out to get other directors to turn the project down, he gets rewarded by his friends. If there’s a more literal modern incarnation of a ‘good ol’ boys network’ at work in Hollywood today, I’d be surprised.
Why not give this to Michelle MacLaren, who has been absolutely tearing it up on Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead? Or what about Lexi Alexander, whose Punisher: War Zone is one of the best super-hero films ever made and who has spoken intelligently about gender, filmmaking, violence, and more in the past? Kathryn Bigelow is an obvious choice, whose 1-2 punch of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty demonstrate that she can make inaction and action equally thrilling, and get across complicated ideas in crowd-pleasing packages. You could take a chance on a talented up-and-comer, someone like Lake Bell, or on a gifted director whose work is thoughtful and intelligent, like Sarah Polley. How about Amma Asante, who recently made waves with Belle. There are dozens of interesting, innovative female filmmakers who could turn out a great, fascinating film. Hell, my cousin Kim has more directorial experience than Orci, having directed a pair of short films and worked extensively on commercials.
There are options. There are a lot of options. There are men and women, straight or queer, from all over the world, hundreds of choices they could have made that would have never prompted articles like this, never prompted the level of vitriol I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they opted to hire a friend with no experience and a bad track record.
Congratulations, Paramount Pictures. In one fell swoop, you managed to betray the ideals of Star Trek, ruin your already-struggling reboot of the series, kill a lot of fan goodwill, and come to exemplify the sexism endemic to the industry.
Keep up the good work.