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Natalie Portman Needs to Do More Than Talk About Female Directors; She Needs to Work With Them

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Natalie Portman attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Natalie Portman has made calling out awards shows for not nominating female directors part of her brand. At the 2018 Golden Globes she famously ad libed “and here are the all-male nominees,” and at yesterday’s Oscar ceremony she arrived in a cape worthy of Padme Amidala that included the embroidered names of snubbed female directors:

It’s great that Natalie cares so much about promoting the work of these women … but it would be even better if she’d actually work with them.

In Natalie Portman’s 26 years career she has worked with a female director twice, and one of those was her directing herself, so I don’t really think that counts. The single female director she’s made a film with? French director Rebecca Zlotowski, with whom Portman made Planetarium, a movie co-starrng Johnny Depp’s daughter that  you have never heard of because its gross in the US was $3,262

How is this possible? Natalie is an oscar-winning, A-list star who has her choice of projects and by signing onto a film, could get it funding, support, and an audience. She’s shown her willingness to work with “visionary,” boundary-pushing directors like Alex Garland for Annihilation or Noah Hawley in Lucy in the Sky, but she can’t find a single woman to make a movie with?

Especially because Natalie has been in a lot of movies about women by men who do not understand womanhood at all. Yes. I’m looking at you, Black Swan. The projects Portman seems drawn to would have been better with women writing the scripts or behind the camera, but that’s not the choice that was made.

What’s even worse is that Portman also has her own production company, Handsomecharliefilms, which has produced eleven films and never hired a female director besides Portman herself. This was called out in a Tweet that got a lot of attention last night:

This is all … kind of infuriating. Women and people of color, and especially women of color, will never get to an even playing field or receive the nominations and recognition Portman seems so concerned about if stars like Natalie Portman don’t back up their words with actions. Otherwise, this is just another performance of feminism and not a meaningful step.

People in Hollywood who speak up about the need for inclusion must do more than just speak, they need to do. They need to hire women, they need to diversify their sets, either through inclusion riders or their own advocacy and hiring practices. They need to make Hollywood a place that’s comfortable and compassionate and workable for women—which means stomping out harassment and supporting parents.

And this isn’t just about directors. People like Natalie Portman or anyone that calls themself an ally need to make their sets places where women can learn and be mentored and supported. Women are incredibly still underrepresented in some fields in Hollywood, like editing, cinematography, and music. Feminists and allies need to find those women and champion them at every turn, not just talk about them when they’re at an awards show.

When Natalie Portman wears her message on her back, but literally sheds it when she takes the stage to work, the message loses its power and importance. So, Natalie, we beg of you, use that awesome cape as more than a statement and call every one of those women up and ask what you can actually do to support their work and careers. Then we can talk.

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.