The supportive girlfriend. The doting mother. The devoted daughter. These simplified roles are too often the only options for women trying to catch a break in Hollywood.
But don’t just take the word of this feminist blogger: the studies back up Hollywood’s major problem with diverse roles for women, or screen presence whatsoever. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and the Media, only 27 percent of characters in PG, PG-13, and R-rated movies from 1990 to 2006 were women. Men outnumbered them onscreen 2.71:1. These female characters were five times more likely than their male counterparts to appear in sexually revealing or alluring garb (shocker). Things weren’t necessarily better in G-Rated films, the Institute found consistent patterns of female characters with desires for one-dimensional love and short-sighted aspirations. They, too, are generally valued for their appearances.
But one person is attempting to change Hollywood by satire. Robert Shepyer has launched a Kickstarter campaign for “Not Another Pretty Face,” a movie about an actress named Donna, who accidentally gets to play the complex, dynamic protagonist that she has dreamed of because she inadvertently auditions for a role made for a man — and proves the naysayers wrong. “Women as supportive, male dependent figures is a stereotype that needs to be changed,” says Shepyer.
Shepyer is a California native who was inspired to try to change the industry he had loved working for after he saw actress Olivia Wilde’s speech from the Panel of Female Justice in February. “After dwelling on the idea of gender inequality, I thought of all the feminine imagery I had captured in prior films and decided that it was the best direction to take my filmmaking,” he said.”Researching gender inequality in Hollywood and seeing the statistics made me want to become a part of the solution in my own way.”
He teamed up with Daniel Rozzen as producer to launch the Kickstarter for “Not Another Pretty Face” after interviewing their female friends and colleagues in Hollywood about what they felt were the biggest struggles of being a woman in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera. Altogether, Shepyer notes, men outnumber women on film crews five to one. Their interviews with women who work as actresses, directors and writers are gripping. “Some archetypal characters on TV and film teaches young girls a false sense of self,” says filmmaker Li Lu on the Kickstarter video.
“I always wanted to play those strong characters, interesting characters, damaged characters and that is totally not what I was offered to play or believed I could play when I first arrived,” said actress Jennifer Field. The lack of complex, edgy dynamic roles is especially important to Shepyer’s project. “The women in our film talk about everything from philosophical ideas about art to politics. Another is This or That vs This and That; where often times female characters are put into a box, sometimes out of sheer laziness or lack of creativity,” Shepyer says. “The worst example to me is when she’s smart and has to be a tomboy.”
But it is not enough to shout statistics or sometimes even to create new and challenging roles for women — people must be made aware of the problem of typecasting and challenge long held beliefs and biases. That’s why satire is such a strong choice for “Not Another Pretty Face.” Shepyer notes on his Kickstarter campaign that, “Satire is the perfect method of examining and making fun of the current traditions in Hollywood. From satirically objectifying men, to fantasy scenes breaking various gender roles, to exploring the modeling and acting industries.”
So why is the “Not Another Pretty Face” project being led by a dude? I asked Shepyer about this and he stressed that his co-producers are women, Stacey Dorenfeld and Mia Eden, as is the casting director, Nicki Katz. But, he understands the potential backlash and has already faced some online critics questioning whether he, as a man, is in the position to tell this story. “We don’t feed their boredom with debate. The reality is men and women are totally capable of telling stories of whatever they want and executing them well,” he says.
“Not Another Pretty Face would never exist without the brilliant women on our team,” he adds.