HBO’s Sex and the City remains one of the networks most successful shows. Despite the emergence of HBO’s Girls which threatened to push SATC out of high rankings, with a forthright, less romanticised look at the young lives which adorn the streets of New York, the charm was never lost. Now, all six seasons of SATC have been acquired by Amazon Prime, but it is the legacy that the show has left, which seems ever more important today.
From 1998 to 2004, Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes, lived, worked and drank within the skyline of Manhattan. Whilst Seinfeld was said to be the sitcom about ‘nothing’, SATC was said to be about the friendships, loves, both tangled and somewhat straightforward, and womanhood. What made SATC popular, beyond fashion choices and attractive love-interests, was depth. Throughout my studies of film and television, I must agree that until that point on television, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls were the only matches. Lucille Ball was one of Hollywoods greatest funny women, whilst It is only fair to say that women have had their moments in the spotlight, despite what is often said in media. Hollywood film did this well with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and European film did this exceptionally well, with Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Giulietta Masina, who contributed to cinema. However, its not all plain sailing for women in the industry.
Onscreen and behind-the-screen womanhood didn’t end, nor did it begin with Sex and the City. From early cinema, to more recent shows including Girls, Veep and Orange Is The New Black, we see change in the industry. But it’s not enough.
Studies by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, show the figures of how women are dispersed within the Hollywood system (2014). Despite large and notable roles going to actresses such as Lupita Nyong’o, Leslie Jones and Meryl Streep.Women in the film industry are somewhat underrepresented and underpaid. It is thought that between 2013-2014, Scarlett Johansson received an estimated $17m, in the year that Leonardo DiCaprio earned a staggering $45m; though It should be noted that we should look beyond what a salary suggests.
“If you can get women in those very important gatekeeping roles — or in film, this would be film directors — then you’re going to see more women not only onscreen, but also in important roles behind the scenes as well.” -Martha Lauzen, Ph.D (via Buzzfeed)
Out of the women we see onscreen, the most unrepresented group are those of colour and diverse ethnicities as well as the another contributing factor, specific age-ranges and size. But articles such as ’40 Actresses Over 40 Who Are Still Conquering Hollywood‘ published by The Wrap, makes me wonder why it is such a shock to some, that an actress over 40 can ‘still conquer’? Of course it it catches the attention of viewers, but is there more to the issue? This is an industry that needs women. Women of all races, ages and sizes, and women both in front and behind the camera.
There are frivolities and embellishments in SATC, in the same way that there are, to almost everything that appears onscreen. After all, rain onscreen is not always for the integrity of the screenplay, often, it is there for effect. Because, rain is one of the most beautiful elements that has appeared on screen. The ending of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Spiderman’s kiss, the walk in Midnight In Paris and Andy Dufresne’s rain-soaked escape of Shawshank, would not have been the same without precipitation. Nevertheless, SATC still dealt with heavy subjects. Infidelity, illness, work, family, miscarriages and good-but-oh-so-bad relationships, and in all, the women had the power, and women were vulnerable at the same time. Their views differed, their lives differed, but in turn, they came together in both effortless style, and fashionable style, to celebrate womanhood, with things going wrong, and even going right at times.
To look at cinema as a whole, fragile minds in society, are still bombarded with perfect bodies, brilliant existences, and an idea that women don’t always have a place. And though it is not only cinema which does this, and we must acknowledge the improvements in the industry, but women have no time to give up just yet. And, In writing briefly about the legacy of SATC, it is Richard Linklater that comes to mind, forming a common denominator for the legacy of woman. But why single out Richard Linklater?
I suggest that It should not be down to a specific man or specific woman to make change, but a joint effort on both sides. As much as anyone wants women to stand up, and show us what they can give the creative world, we should also be opposed to saying that women should take all successes away from men. It’s only fair. It is about how women are represented and perceived, but it is also about protecting the integrity of creativity. Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) and Melissa Mathison (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), are just as talented screenwriters as Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) and Woody Allen. But giving gratitude to Linklater on a late February date at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, sparked articles, speeches and investigations into where women stand.
Patricia Arquette made a speech that will remain as one of her greatest public moments. Known for her roles in Medium and True Romance and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, being that which she dedicated proportions of 2002-2014 to, for what became a 2h 46m modern masterpiece. The Linklater drama came at the top of many critics’ lists and won several awards including the Golden Globe Award and the British Academy Film Award for best film, but draped in a dress by childhood friend and designer Rosetta Getty, Arquette accepted the award for Actress in a Supporting Role; going on to mentioning the academy in her speech, as well as women. Every woman. Meryl Steep got to her feet supporting the speech which shone attention to the controversial salaries in the Hollywood system. Nowhere in the SAG-AFTRA documents does is single out a column for women. Nor do the rates suggest so in the documents of the DGA (Directors Guild of America), IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), IAWG (International Affiliation of Writers Guilds) or the WGGB (Writers’ Guild of Great Britain ).
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
What Linklater gave Arquette, was more than a script in which she made a beautiful, realistic and emotional depiction of a woman, wife, mother and strong human-being, that which won her one of cinemas most prestigious award. He gave an opportunity to a woman who may not have been cast elsewhere, by any other director. He gave a phenomenally talented actress the chance, based on her talent and for her suiting to the part. This isn’t to say that Linklater is the only person to do so. This is isn’t to say that women themselves, can’t put themselves in the spotlight. It has been proven time and time again, especially through the independent cinema scene.
We have become adept to seeing a variety of women on our screens; Marilyn Monroe, Giulietta Masina, Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer, are all actresses, who in their own right are both talented and beautiful women. Unique in acting styles, look, and, with the ability to portray characters who remain with us forever. Giulietta Masina in particular, who played Cabiria Ceccarelli in Fellini’s 1957 Oscar-winning classic, with her statement eyebrows, vulnerable yet strong character and eclectically dressed frame, was a character who made me want to take my film studies further. Though Fellini is a dream-job, it was his protagonist that drove my thoughts.
But why am I so fascinated with Linklater? Is it the characters he creates? The words he suggests they say? Is it the actresses chosen to play these parts? Or is it his filmmaking in general? It is certainly all of the above, but it is Linklater’s ladies, the man who is merely a common denominator, of the remained ingrained in my mind. It is Linklater’s actresses, that stand on their own two feet. Alongside Patricia Arquette, is Julie Delpy.
Before Sunrise, also written by Kim Krizan (Dazed And Confused), is the first Linklater film I saw. It was what begun my love of Julie Delpy (2 Days In New York, Three Colours: White) and It was probably what started my love of Linklater films. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train, and spend just a night together in Vienna. There are two sequel films. Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Celine is a strong, animated, impulsive and intelligent woman. I fell in love with the idea of becoming this sort of character. Watching Linklater’s trilogy is therefore, almost magical.
To date, Julie Delpy eleven writing credits to her name. She has fifty-nine acting credits, eight director and four producing credits, as well as a plethora of other accolades. I, however, would not have know that if it wasn’t for the tantalisingly evocative character that had been created by Linklater. Only more recently, have females had their names presented as boldly, openly and as loudly as the male predecessors of the industry. My favourite George Lucas film will most probably remain American Graffiti. It was not his first film, and many more followed. But why can’t the names of female writers and directors, appear more frequently in the same fashion as Spielberg, Jonze, Kaufman and Almodóvar?
The truth is, they can. We must see ourselves as lucky to have people like, and other than Linklater putting women on the map, both in front and behind the screen, but women can do it. Sofia Coppola, Josephine Baker, Kathryn Bigelow, Lena Dunham, Nora Ephron and Whoopi Goldberg, are all women who have in some way, made huge contributions to the industry. Sex and the City formed a television revolution, but earlier than that, award winning actress Beah Richards (1920-2000) said:
“Be mindful that the world that you want to live in and that you need to live in needs you to create it; it needs your input. The world needs to hear what you have to say. The last word has not been spoken.”