The Fempire — Women Supporting Women

by Melissa Silverstein on March 23, 2009

in Women Writers

l-r Dana Fox, Diablo Cody, Liz Meriwether, Lorene Scafaria phot by Amy Dickerson for NY Times

(l-r) Dana Fox, Diablo Cody, Liz Meriwether, Lorene Scafaria - photo by Amy Dickerson for NY Times

The NY Times in a Style section piece yesterday reported this bizarro notion that there are women screenwriters in Hollywood that support and root for each other.  Shocking.  I first heard about the group last fall during the Toronto Film Festival where the Fempire went and supported Lorene Scafaria at her premiere of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Here’s my piece.

The piece has gotten a lot of differing reactions.  Here are my thoughts:

Overall, I’m thrilled about the Fempire.  It’s clearly needed especially in light of the fact that only 12% of films are written by women.  It’s also smart.  Writing can be very lonely and it’s great that these women have each other.  It’s also cool that they have added a new member to the group since Toronto who they are mentoring.

The article was in the Style section which we all know is code word for women.  It technically belonged more in the Arts & Leisure section but honestly, who really reads that anymore?  It is so irrelevant and Style section piece are always longer and more interestingly written.  Just admit it, you all read the Style section way before the Arts & Leisure.  Right?

Here are some of the problems.  The title-  An Entourage of Their Own.  I watch Entourage and these women are no entourage.  It’s a cool name but these women are not granted access because they work for a star.  They are the stars.  The term is misleading and demeaning.  Better would have been- A League of Their Own.

The biggest issue that people are having with the piece is the sexualized nature of it and how these women use their sexuality.  Be real.  This is Hollywood and they are young and cute.  They’re also not stupid, and know that being young and cute is a huge boon to their careers.  In this world the stories just don’t speak for themselves, the storytellers are part of it, especially for women.

Screenwriters usually don’t have stylists or publicists, yet the women said they feel pressure to look photogenic in a way that is not demanded of male screenwriters.

People are jealous of them.  There are tons of Diablo Cody haters.  People hate her because they begrudge her success and because she flaunts it.  She came from nothing and now she’s rich.  It’s a tad unseemly in these times, but she worked hard for it.  She would have nothing if her film hadn’t resonated with people all across the country and had been a huge hit.  She tapped into the zeitgeist which is what all screenwriters are desperate to do.

The thing I admire about her and her posse is that they don’t give a shit about what others think of them.  They are successful women and there is nothing to be ashamed about.  Isn’t that what feminism was about?

Do I wish that the sexuality stuff was not a part of these women’s stories?  Sure.  Do I wish that the entire beginning of the NY Times piece would have talked about their films instead of what they looked like?  Yup.  But being a dancer in a strip club is part of Diablo’s backstory and it will never go away.  I’m not going to let the sex talk stop me from admiring that these women are friends, real friends, and they are fighting against a difficult culture that does a damn good job of pitting women against each other.

“There are so few slots for us in Hollywood,” Ms. Cody said. “Sometimes you hear the lobsters-in-a-pot metaphor — if the lobsters cooperated, they could get each other out. We’re cooperating. We refuse to just lie there and boil.”

I want them to be successful.  I want them to be able to write films that are not regressive chick flicks and have enough power to get them produced.  As of right now the body of work between the women is mixed.  I liked Juno and even though I haven’t seen Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, I actually want to.   But I had no interest in seeing Dana Fox’s The Wedding Date or What Happens in Vegas.

But who knows what going to happen to the Fempire?  I think it’s going to be really interesting to watch how they grow cause the list of high profile screenwriters is really short, and the fact that there is a couple of young women on it is exciting.  I hope that as they gain power they will have more freedom to write more feminist type stories.  So as I said before, long live the Fempire.

Hollywood’s New Power Posse (NY Times)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! March 23, 2009 at 7:07 AM

WELL SAID, MELISSA. Firstly, I was offended that the article was filed under Style/Fashion, they couldn’t have bloody put this under Movies/Art???? WTF????????

I’m such a huge Cody and Fempire fan, I’m really excited that they’re banding together. I definitely hope they will set up a production company. Let’s hope this article will refute that other article on this website a few weeks ago about how women aren’t supportive of other women in Hollywood.

It’s amazing how much hate there is for Diablo Cody. she hasn’t done anything wrong, but yes, you’re right. People are jealous and bitter. One whiney, moronic loser even formed a Diablo Cody hate club on myspace and named me as the number# 1 “sheep fan.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I’m proud to be #1 “sheep fan” because Cody ROCKS.

grrljock March 23, 2009 at 9:11 AM

As Ani DiFranco put it:

“and god help you if you are an ugly girl
course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room”

Currently, Diablo Cody’s the ‘prettiest’ (richest, etc), so the knives are out for her. Glad to hear that she’s using her power for good.

SolShine7 March 23, 2009 at 6:40 PM

Yep. Long live the fempire and many more to come!

Paige Orloff March 23, 2009 at 8:30 PM

Great piece, and great site. I’m all for the fempire, for anything that gets female voices heard, but let’s not forget that there are tons of gifted female writers who don’t get (or seek) the press that these women do, who also support each other. And unfortunately, the Times article felt like it was treating the women and their united front like a sideshow attraction.

jenny March 24, 2009 at 10:15 AM

You know there is something about this kind of article that from the very beginning sets these women up to be disliked though. I mean the one woman who wrote the HORRIBLE “What Happens In Vegas” (yes I saw most of it) now makes seven figures per script? That doesn’t seem right for someone with so little obvious talent so far. This article does make their life seem very charmed for so little actual screen time.

I am friends with a woman who is a major TV producer in LA. She has a degree in comparative literature from UC Berkeley and is about as cool, smart and feminist as it gets. I asked her why she has never been featured in a piece like this and she told me that she would never participate in “typical New York Times schadenfreude bait.” I see her point.

Anyway, great site. Thanks Melissa!

lizriz March 24, 2009 at 5:26 PM

Perhaps the real story is that groups of women banding together in Hollywood to help each other is about as rare as L.A. traffic. Here’s just one of my posses: http://www.gritfilm.org/

We just wrapped on a web series that’s in post right now. Ten webisodes; ten directors.

It is, of course, nice to see people working together and forming support groups getting some press. Although Holy Crap does the NYT Style section need to be renamed.

gHordon March 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM

you know I’m just going to put my post back up again right? You know I’m right.

Joe Chief March 24, 2010 at 4:32 PM

I don’t know what is worse. The fact that women actually support this drivel of an article that you posted, or the fact that you actually believe the BS ridden garbage that you slandered over the internet. Are you for real? Really? Your whole bit on Diablo Cody is way off as is your bit on feminism. Yes there are tons of Diablo Cody haters out there, but the reasons vary. Some hate her because she flaunts her successes but there are those who HATE her NOT because she flaunts it, but because she got LUCKY with her success. It was pure luck, simple as that.

20 years ago, when the Oscars actually MEANT something to the world, no one in the committee would even think twice about taking a glance at a crassly written piece of shit script with no character build, no solid foundation of what the writer was trying to achieve and something that was basically heavily relied on horrifically pseudo witty dialogue and enough one liners to fill a pot hole with. But because the quality in Hollywood has gone WAY down south big time, Cody somehow managed to open her legs to the Oscar committee and whored herself a win. The only thing she worked hard for is how she BJ’ed her way to the top.

This is appealing to the lowest common denominator at it’s worst, and frankly I’m shocked that you actually support her. I mean since you are a so called feminist and what not. Sure they are successful, but only time will tell if their writing will last. And so far Cody’s writing technique’s has been nothing short of mediocre.

The United States of Tara wasn’t even nominated for it’s writing and her last attempt at the box office screen was so horrifically panned that people even stated that Megan Fox deserved better. Megan Fox, an “actress” who is known more for her physicality rather than her acting…deserved better than “Jennifer’s Body”

If you honestly think feminism is about achieving success by any means necessary, then you might as well be one of those crusted up, STD infested prostitutes that works the corner of downtown Manhattan. Especially since you’re supporting someone who continues to flaunt the fact that she use to be a stripper. Yeah that’s putting women’s rights on such a high pedestal.

I don’t see how you can wish that their sexuality was not part of their story yet continue to support them, especially when they flaunt said fact in their stories. I don’t think anyone has a problem with Diablo Cody being a dancer in a strip club, but the fact that she keeps shoving it down our throats is what makes her very unkempt and in general degrading to women for the most part. That’s very hypocritical on your end. Not to mention that said, former stripper pretty much got her idea for Juno from OTHER people’s stories.

IE: Jenny Juno? That ring a bell in your head oh inept writer?

But you continue to show your support for Diablo Cody and her other group of hack writers. Continue to be the hypocrite that you are and set back the movement for feminisms. They aren’t fighting against a difficult culture that puts women against each other, they’re adding fuel to the fire for it. Get that through your head you simpleton.

Fempire Fandom March 12, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Long live The Fempire!!!

Lauran Childs August 6, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Wow Joe Chief I’m shocked at your words!

This is all new to me, I’ve just written my first script and it’s good to hear about women gaining success in Hollywood. Now I’m going to look up Dana Fox…

Arshad Mahmood February 1, 2013 at 6:10 AM

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