This past weekend at a Cannes Film Festival panel co-hosted by Variety and U.N. Women’s HeForShe campaign – an initiative for gender equality Emma Watson helped launch – Salma Hayek spoke about how Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to treating women with respect.
Hayek, who is in the film Tale of Tales shown at Cannes, wasn’t alone in supporting women’s right to equality in a workplace that just so happens to be the entertainment industry. Joining her on the panel were actresses Parker Posey and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who offered their own perspectives on Hollywood sexism. Also speaking were Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen, who both worked on the film Carol–a lesbian love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara that’s getting a ton of Cannes buzz.
Heavily weighted Hollywood producers have a history of misunderstanding what draws women to movie theaters, as Hayek explained. “For a long time they thought the only thing we were interested in seeing were romantic comedies,” said Hayek. “They don’t see us as a powerful economic force, which is an incredible ignorance.” Half of all movie tickets are sold to women, so it’s high time Hollywood started making movies with female characters that are more than one-dimensional. Take 2014’s Lucy, for example. It starred Scarlett Johansson and was a huge success financially. Even on a lighter note, 2013’s The Heat – which featured Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as buddy cops – was an undeniable smash hit.
Despite the increasing number of female-led movies that are succeeding, there are still challenges for women both in front of and behind the camera. Hollywood actress Salma Hayek has spoken out about how sometimes leading actors can have a say in who is cast for roles, which has led to her losing parts before. However, it’s not equal the other way around – with male stars’ opinions carrying more weight than females, she says.
According to Variety, things aren’t looking good for female directors. Out of 2014’s 250 top-grossing movies, only 17 were directed by women. This is a serious issue because even though there are plenty of talented actresses out there, Hollywood needs equality in all areas in order to create an equal playing ground. “[Studio executives] don’t know what we want to see,” Hayek said. “When women don’t direct and women don’t write and tell our own stories, we stopped going to the movies and started watching them on television.”
In addition, Hayek also drew attention to the pay gap between genders in Hollywood. “The only kind of movie where women make more than men is the porno industry,” said Hayek. “It’s simple ignorance.” To prove that point, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made less for their roles in the Academy Award-nominated American Hustle than their male co-stars.
Hayek said that women in and out of Hollywood have the power to change things, even though it’s difficult. “Look, we cannot stand as victims and say they are not looking at us…What gives me hopes is that we are in a position of power,” she said. To put it simply, you can watch more movies made by and starring women. This is the kind of solution that would have been a dream come true back in high school. By supporting woman-driven films with your money, you’re not only filling Hollywood’s pockets, but you’re also sending a message about what people want to see.