Breaking Into the Boys' Club: Female-Driven Blockbusters

Posted by Malory Beazley | Posted in , , , | Posted on 12:32 AM



With the phenomenal success of Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight in 2008, came a renewed interest in the gender-politics of Hollywood.  The film, with its relatively low-budget ($37 mil) and ‘independent’ feel, grossed over $384.9 million worldwide as droves of young women flocked to theatres, often seeing the film multiple times (and true twi-hard fans at least three or four…).  It seemed that young girls were finally seeing something that they liked onscreen: the objectification of the male body.  Yes, boys, that’s right.  For once in our lives we actually got to redirect the masochistic Hollywood ‘gaze’ onto some big-screen abs and chiseled pectorals.

According to, the female-driven blockbuster is on the rise and hence, “studios are making more movies now that accurately reflect women’s experiences and interests.”  I would suggest that this trend has partly been inspired by the recent influence of two female directors who have made high-grossing films: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and Anne Fletcher (The Proposal).  In addition, we have been seeing a lot more big-budget films being targeted towards young women, a few examples being The Twilight Saga: New Moon (80% female audience), Julie and Julia (67% female audience), The Notebook, Sex and the City, and most recently Dear John.  Geoffry Ammer, marketing chief for the company 'Relativity', suggests that the success of these ‘chick-flicks’ is highly dependent on the social networking tool, Twitter.  He says, “It’s getting all those young girls Tweeting and telling their friends how good the movie is… that’s the key.”

However, even with the recent box office takeover by a young female demographic (a spot traditionally held by the action moviegoers of the teenaged boy variety), why are there still so few female directors?  According to a study published by San Diego State University, only 9% of Hollywood directors in 2008 were female, which is the same number as there were a decade ago, in 1998.  Furthermore, Kathryn Bigelow’s recent Oscar nomination for her film The Hurt Locker, makes her only the 4th woman to ever be nominated in the ‘Best Director’ category… and no woman has ever won.

I would conclude by suggesting that the Twilight phenomenon has certainly projected female director Catherine Hardwicke into the spotlight (whose previous films include Lords of Dogtown and the under-rated Thirteen) and proven that female-driven plots can rake as much dough as their action-adventure counterparts (in fact, the profitability margin of The Twilight Saga: New Moon actually beat out its male-driven counterparts Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in the 2009 summer box office).  I can only hope, like Jane Campion, that aspiring female directors can “put on their coats of armour and get going” in the boys’ club that is Hollywood.

p.s.  Now I can feel slightly less creepy about posting this half-naked photo of Taylor Lautner because it was totally his 18th birthday today ... mrahaha.

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