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So That’s What Was So Weird About Big Little Lies Season 2

Seriously, HBO, what are you doing?

Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz in Big Little Lies (2017)

You’d think HBO and Big Little Lies, a story about complex women, wouldn’t want to turn around and screw over their female director, but apparently that was the case with the second season of the HBO smash hit. IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt has reported that director Andrea Arnold, who was brought on to direct the entire second season with her own style, had that style removed from her work during the editing process by male producers.

Naming “sources close to the production,” O’Falt writes that the idea was that the producers apparently “wanted an Andrea Arnold version of the show and all that entailed,” but that the plan all along had been to bring back season one director Jean-Marc Vallée at the end to shape Arnold’s footage to match his first season’s style through additional footage and editing. The article itself goes into detail about the experiences Arnold had working with HBO, saying towards the end that sources close to the director say she’s “heartbroken” from the experience.

This is not a good look for HBO overall, but to snub a female director in such a fashion is beyond gross. There’s a difference between a studio wanting a specific product delivered and a studio saying they want a director’s specific vision and then doubling back and trying to make it look like season one. That seems like a particularly heinous betrayal of a celebrated female director.

You can’t say you support women in the industry and then treat them like this. Overall, you can’t say you support artistic vision with any director and pull this. Directors should be allowed to be artists, not just create a corporate image of what studios want. You don’t hire a director like Arnold, with a distinct visual style, say that’s what you want, and then edit it to be unrecognizable.

This is thoroughly disheartening on many levels. It shows that HBO still needs to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to female creatives, and to not jerk directors around like this. For this to happen on a show like Big Little Lies, which centers on fascinating female characters and stars some incredible actresses, is particularly a slap in the face.

HBO could stand to do better in how it treats directors if Arnold’s treatment is anything to go by. This is a problem, and it shows a lack of faith in Arnold’s vision and an attempt to take art and turn it into a specific package. If they wanted season two to be the same as season one, they should’ve waited for Jean-Marc Vallée to wrap Sharp Objects, rather than hire a director on the false promise of respecting their vision.

(via IndieWire, image: Jennifer Clasen/HBO)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.