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Breaking Glass

The women-in-film issue that wasn't

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As a screenwriter, I was initially irritated to learn that James Gunn — writer-director of this year's uber-successful summer blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” — was reported to have given multiple interviews in which he expressed his disagreement with the co-writing credit Nicole Perlman — the first woman ever to have a writing credit on a Marvel movie — received for the original draft she developed while in the Marvel Writing Program.

The writer of this particular article, Ellen Killoran, said it best when she said, “Hollywood folks have marginalized her contributions.”
And indeed, she certainly has a point.

However, Killoran then interviews Maria Giese, a film director and activist for gender parity in Hollywood—and somehow, what would have been a gender-neutral discussion suddenly becomes a battle of the sexes for the silver screen.

Let’s just take a step back and review the facts:

  1. Perlman — a woman — was solely responsible for realizing how a lesser-known comic book series about a misfit band of criminals (including a sentimental thief, a disloyal assassin, a literal-minded warrior, a bumbling tree, and a genetically-engineered raccoon) could easily become this summer’s $500 million ticket.
  2. Perlman — a woman — also admitted to BuzzFeed that Gunn “put his stamp on (the script) for sure” and has spoken with honesty about her script requiring multiple rewrites.
  3. Perlman — a woman — was asked to interview for Killoran’s article and was pending approval from Marvel, which it seems she did not receive after a representative outwardly declined. This subsequently spurred Giese to report to Killoran that “Hollywood has her trapped. If she stands up for herself, she might not work again.”

After reading all the evidence — I admit — I shared the article via social media in protest, too. Let the girls play! We read comics, too! We can write summer blockbusters, too!

To which I was greeted with a comment from a talented male filmmaker friend of mine:

“Nope. Nope, nope, nope.”

“For the writer of this article to imply that gender had anything to do with Gunn’s lack of credit to Perlman is unfair. I would never argue that Hollywood isn’t a total boy’s club — because it largely is — (but) Perlman received the credit she did solely because she penned the first draft. It’s been reported multiple times that Gunn’s script was a page one rewrite — a complete overhaul … To try to take away anything from him in the name of discrimination isn’t right. The way Hollywood treats and views women isn’t right either, but that isn’t the fight (Killoran) is looking for.”

This gentleman went on to mention how Gunn had — at least in one instance — described Perlman’s original script as “far more influential to his script than Chris McCoy’s (the guy who was hired to re-write Perlman’s original draft)” on The Howard Stern Show.

Touché, male colleague, touché.

Even though I didn’t entirely agree with him — I believe rewrites of a concept not developed by oneself should, in fact, give due credit to its initial creator — the man did come through with thoughtful criticism against the war cries of feminist filmmakers everywhere.

Because fact: when you remove the word “woman” from all of the facts listed above, it becomes evident that the same criticisms could have easily arisen if Perlman had been a man.

My enlightened reply:

“While I don’t think the issue was specifically gender-related either, it’s just unfortunate that Perlman also happens to be a woman in a male-dominated field.”

Because even Giese, in Killoran’s article, said: “The industry is listening. That is why Perlman is important right now.”

There are lessons to be learned here:

Being a woman in film — or in any male-dominated industry — is harder than one thinks, and due recognition is difficult to come by.
But then again gender cannot and should not always be a reason why one should be given the attention deserved.


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