Are You Kidding Me Right Now? Woman Didn’t Get Job Because “Lead Actor Hates Female Directors”
We Can't Have Nice Things
Things that should qualify someone for directing an episode of a TV show: Experience working with actors. A good director’s reel. Proven ability to come in on time and budget.
One thing that should not serve as a prerequisite: Being a man. We think that goes without saying, but director Barbara Stepansky found that that wasn’t the case when a director/producer outright told her that she wouldn’t be hired because “The lead actor hates female directors.”
On WomenDirectorsInHollywood.com, Stepansky relates the story of how a male friend of hers was recently hired to direct an episode of a prime-time TV show after winning Student Emmys for Best Drama and Best Director. The success of this friend (whom she calls “a terrific person, very deserving and very humble”) put her in mind of her own Student Emmys success from a few years earlier:
At the awards ceremony, I was approached by an equally heavy-hitting producer of an equally popular prime-time TV drama on Fox (alas, a different one). He was impressed with my thesis film, which had garnered the two top awards of the night. He also graciously invited me to come and visit the set of the show he was producing. I was allowed to shadow an episode he himself was directing for a day. During that visit, I asked about the opportunity to direct.
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “The lead actor hates female directors. We only had one in the first season, and she was never invited back. He just doesn’t like them.”
“Sorry, kid. He just doesn’t like the broads! Myself, I love ’em, but what can you do? Eh? Eh?”
Seriously?! You may say that Stepansky just got unlucky; she happened to ask about working at a show run by and starring people whose sexism, while appalling, is by no means the norm. And I’d agree that Stepansky’s story is pretty unusual for the sexism she experienced being so unapologetically blatant.
But c’mon. Only eleven percent of prime-time TV directors are female, and it’s not because the male of the species is just 89 percent better at directing. And as Stepansky points out, “You may tolerate your grandpa spouting misogynist rhetoric at Thanksgiving with a roll of your eyes, but it’s simply not acceptable coming from people who hold the keys to prestigious and lucrative jobs.”
Except, apparently, it is. Acceptable to some of the people who already hold those prestigious and lucrative jobs, that is.