I’ve been trying to analyze if there is has been any effect in the larger conversation since Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for best director earlier this year.
While it clearly has not helped women in general to get jobs on big studio pictures, yet (and I say that with high hopes for the future), it has made people aware of the fact that only one woman has won the award and only four have been nominated.
What that has translated into is certain conversations about women directors that we probably wouldn’t have had before.
Case in point – Pixar firing Brenda Chapman from Brave.
Directors get fired all the time. But this firing has people up in arms for a variety of reasons. First, because they touted her as their first female director only a month ago; second, she is an experienced animated director; third, the firing doesn’t seem to be rational and folks even in the business are confused as to why it happened.
And another thing to note, the film is about a girl (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) who defies her parents and wants to become an archer. Here’s the description from the film’s Facebook page:
Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, “Brave” features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right. The all-star cast features Reese Witherspoon, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Julie Walters. Pixar’s very own Brenda Chapman, of “The Lion King” and “Prince of Egypt” fame, directs this Highland tale full of humor, heart and adventure.
Chapman’s name is still on the page, and also the film is produced by a woman Katherine Sarafian.
So they had a woman director on a film about a girl who seems to kick ass.
And now she’s gone. What message does that send?
They (the Disney side of Pixar) have already toned down Tangled AKA Rapunzel to make it more boy friendly and I really hope that doesn’t happen here too. Because its not like there are so many films and characters about girls in kids films no matter how many princess movies you see. According to the latest research girls are only 29% of speaking characters in G, PG and PG-13 films.
But the press has noticed this firing and honestly it is Pixar’s own fault cause if they wouldn’t have announced last month that she was the first female director then no one would have noticed that she had been booted. How does a relationship that has been ongoing for years sour in one month from anointment to firing?
Here are some of the press pieces. First place goes to Cartoon Brew which had the early info and the great comments.
Here are some of the other headlines:
Is Pixar Sexist? Anger as Studio Replaces Female Director on ‘Brave’ – The Wrap
Pixar Removes Its First Female Director – The NY Times
Director Brenda Chapman replaced on Pixar’s ‘Brave’ while animation insiders buzz – Hitfix
So to me, the Bigelow effect here is that we noticed this, we talked about this, and it didn’t just go by as business as usual.