Shift the Story, Change the World

Hello all,

There have been articles written recently concerning alleged sexist practices in Hollywood. I cannot speak on the goings on in the Inner Circle of the biz, but I can speak from my vantage point on the fringes.

When I went to University, every creative writing class I took was full of women writers. When I volunteered to be a script reader for a local film festival, the majority of the scripts I read were by women. However, when it comes to scripts turned into big budget, feature-length movies, well, those are mostly written by men.

Why is this?

We could speak on the “men’s club mentality” of men being behind the camera and women being in front of it. However, I’d like to turn our attention to the latent sexism found in the scripts themselves, a sexism that may be less intentional and more ingrained in our collective psyche.

We writers were brought up with the Hero’s Journey model. The hero rises up, overcomes obstacles, defeats the villain, marries an (attractive) partner, and lives happily ever after. When taken at face value, this model seems relatively harmless. I mean, everyone wants to triumph over opposition and live happily ever after with someone they love at their side. The problem with it is the assumed gender roles that come along with it.

When someone comes up to me and says, “Aaron, I need a script ASAP” I very often go with these assumed gender roles because they are also default settings in my brain. Man as hero. Woman as damsel. Villain as irredeemably evil. But this does not have to be the case.

The cast could be all male, all female. The villain could be nuanced. The woman could be a businessperson, the man a model. Often, though, I don’t embrace these possibilities. Why? Mostly out of laziness. But what if I were to go with the road less traveled, and by doing so bring new vitality to the stories I tell? A boost in quality. A better story. Sounds pretty good to me!

Hollywood will always be inundated with cookie-cutter stories, but what if we, who have been doing this for a while, dared to do something new? When we begin to appreciate diversity in our stories, we also begin to appreciate the diversity in ourselves. Shift the story, change the world.

So, I ask my fellow (screen)writers: make the effort to tell a different story. It’s like the old song says, “make new [scripts] and keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

Blessings to you in Christ,

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