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Martin Scorsese, Cinema Expert, Says Female Characters Can Detract From Stories

Martin Scorsese at the Rome Film Festival

Martin Scorsese is on a world tour of bad takes, and it continues on in Italy! Not content with judging Marvel movies he hasn’t seen as “not cinema,” at the Rome Film Fest for his new movie, The Irishman, Scorsese went full “old man yells out cloud” about the youths of the world, acting like male is the default for fictional characters and pointing out that we’re getting our history through phone screens!

“How are they going to know about WWII? How are they going to know about Vietnam? What do they think of Afghanistan? What do they think of all of this? They’re perceiving it in bits and pieces. There seems to be no continuity of history.”

First of all, Martin, we’re taught about history in, you know, history classes—not through your fictionalized telling of historical events. That’s how we end up with a warped sense of the truth. Second, Jimmy Hoffa (whose life Scorsese mentioned isn’t very well known today) is an important figure, but not more important than other historical figures we learn about in school. More importantly, female figures that you’d discount because it isn’t a story that you deem worth telling.

His movies consistently tell the stories of everyone from Italian men in history to … Italian men in history—with the exception of The Departed, which starred an Italian man but was set in Boston. Big change. I say this as a member of an Italian family who loves a good Scorsese film. He’s been hailed as a genius in my family for my entire life, and I genuinely agree with that, but that does not excuse him from criticism or me pointing out that these statements are absolutely ludicrous.

When a journalist pointed out the lack of female characters in The Irishman, Scorsese (for lack of a better term) went off: “If the story doesn’t call for it …. It’s a waste of everybody’s time. If the story calls for a female character lead, why not?”

What’s funny is that, when you look at Scorsese’s catalog, there is no movie he made where a woman is the center of the film without a man right beside her. Even Shark Tale falls into this category. Why? Because, it seems, Scorsese has never thought a female lead’s story was important unless a man was right there. That’s the point—not that there are no women in The Irishman specifically—but still, he went on to list the few movies he does have with women starring in them, as if to say, “See, I did the thing!”

Here’s the thing: I like Scorsese movies. I’m fine with there not being a female character because I know what to expect out of one of his movies because they are … wait for it … predictable—not in a bad way, but in a way that you know what kind of story he’s going to tell, and in a way he might consider bad in anyone else’s movies. So, the fact that Scorsese, who is a pioneer and legend in Hollywood, thinks that female characters could detract from a story is, unfortunately, not surprising.

Look at his track record: Goodfellas’ Karen Hill being  very real human is probably why she was included in the first place, which you can compare with Vera Farmiga’s role in The Departed, where she makes no sense and is only there to serve as tension between Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio—and again, I actually like The Departed.

Sure, there have been iconic female roles within Scorsese’s films. Sharon Stone in Casino was brought up in the conversation. The problem is you can count the number of his female characters easily. Why? Because there are not that many of them, and the tired argument that it isn’t the story he wanted to tell just reinforces the fact that he’s making a choice to tell stories about men that he relates to or can write, and fine. That’s his choice, but it’s also our choice to call him out on it.

He’s 76 years old, something he pointed out in response, and that is supposed to excuse the fact that he’s bashing Marvel, saying that kids don’t know history, and acting like being male is the default for fictional characters? No, we know history. It just isn’t the history that you’re telling us.

I’m so tired, especially because I enjoy a good Scorsese film, and I’m actually excited about The Irishman, but I also wish that men like Martin Scorsese would recognize that us pointing out the faults in their catalog is not a direct attack on their character. Instead, we’re just making an observation that, in their body of work, women are not seen as important, and it’s more telling of you as a person that you get defensive over it rather than value the critique.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images for RFF)

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Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.