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Natalie Portman Pretty Much Agrees With Criticism of Her Female Directors Oscar Dress

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 made waves last Sunday when she wore a cape on the Oscars red carpet embroidered with the names of snubbed female directors … despite rarely working with or hiring female directors herself.

Many advocates and outlets, including us, were critical of Portman for what looked like a great gesture of support without any real action to back it up, including Rose McGowan, who criticized Portman in a facebook post where she called out the gesture as “More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares. As so many of them do.” McGowan went on to note Portman’s poor record on working with female directors and called out this kind of activism as “fake” and not just limited to Portman.

In the face of all of this, especially McGowan’s critiques, Portman herself has responded … and pretty much agrees. “I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” Portman said in a statement. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”

This is in reference to the ongoing trial of Harvey Weinstein, who McGowan has accused of raping her in 1997. McGowan has, in recent years, turned her attention towards activism for women and sexual assault survivors. Portman went on to recount her own history and place it in the context of the industry.

“The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system,” Portman wrote. “The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements. It is true I’ve only made a few films with women. In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times – I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”

Those “unmade films” include Jane Got a Gun, which was set to be directed by Lynne Ramsay, before she was forced to exit over a dispute on the film’s editing and final form, as well as Thor: The Dark World, which was initially set to be directed by Patty Jenkins (who would go on to make Wonder Woman). Rumors persist that Portman quit the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to her unhappiness with Jenkins being cut from that project … however, she’s slated to return in Thor: Love and Thunder, which will be directed by a man (albeit an awesome man that we adore) but cowritten by a woman.

Continuing in her statement, Portman noted the difficulties that female filmmakers face: “If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them. I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work,” Portman explained. “After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level. So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”

I hope that Portman is sincere here. We can’t know the extent of her work behind the scenes, but it is up to stars like her to do all they can to support, hire, and work with female filmmakers if they are serious about making change in the industry. Hopefully, the attention this dress, this message, and Portman’s own career have received in the wake of the Oscars will inspire many stars, not just Portman, to work harder and walk the walk instead of just wearing the costume.

When it comes to advocating for women, we all need to do the most we can.

(via: Variety)

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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.