The 82nd Academy Awards will forever hold a special significance for me. Kathryn Bigelow’s win for Best Director showed me that women in mainstream Hollywood are capable of producing excellent films worthy of recognition, and gave me a filmmaking role model. I am in my third year of studying film in university, dreaming of being a filmmaker in the future, and Bigelow was the first time I’d had any sort of woman in the industry to look up to.
Bigelow’s involvement made me have more interest in the Oscars last year than ever before. I was absolutely mesmerized by The Hurt Locker and I wanted it to win everything it was nominated for. The combination of stunning visuals – particularly the brightness of the desert – with a strong story really struck me. I even bought into the media-concocted “feud” between Bigelow and James Cameron simply because I detested Avatar so much. By the time Oscar night rolled around, I was bouncing around in a semi-permanent state of excitement.
I was alone on Oscar night, with a rather large amount of beer at my disposal. My ex-boyfriend, who I lived with at the time, was at work. I promised to call him with results whenever I could. We wanted completely different films and people to win: I wanted anyone who was not Avatar or Sandra Bullock to win, while he was an unapologetic Avatar fanboy and thought The Blind Side was “inspiring.” Most of my picks ended up winning, and I was a ball of nerves when Best Director was about to be presented.
As soon as Bigelow’s name was read, I was jubilant. I jumped around my apartment, I screamed, I danced, I chugged my beer. I made so much noise celebrating that I completely missed her speech! I picked up my phone, hands shaking with delight, and dialed my ex’s number.
“Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director!” I exclaimed as soon as he answered.
“Stupid bitch didn’t deserve to win!” he screamed at me, and hung up.
He ruined my entire night with six words.
His reaction shattered me. I could understand being disappointed if he disliked The Hurt Locker, but we both enjoyed it. I knew he really wanted James Cameron to win, but I knew he wouldn’t react with such blind anger if someone other than Cameron or Bigelow won. He didn’t provide any legitimate criticism, choosing to attack Bigelow’s gender because he felt she was inferior. This raised a lot of questions for me. How would he react if I won an Oscar? Would he be proud of me, or would he say something like “Congratulations, honey, but you’re just a stupid bitch who didn’t deserve to win. Now make me a sandwich!” How else would I be discriminated against because of my gender? How many other people would completely dismiss Bigelow’s win because she is a woman? Was the reason the Academy hadn’t yet honoured a woman director because they were afraid of backlash from people like my ex?
Instead of being completely disillusioned by my ex’s words, I decided to use them to my advantage. In that moment he completely embodied the misogynistic attitude that is pervasive in Hollywood, and I hated it. This incident inspired me to work even harder to achieve my dream of being a filmmaker and changing some of Hollywood’s attitudes towards women. Bigelow’s Oscar win was long-awaited, and hopefully demonstrated that women are capable of producing great films that appeal to a wide audience. The popularity of films such as The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone that are written and directed by women is heartening. Strides are being taken to increase the recognition of women filmmakers in Hollywood, but it remains painfully obvious that full equality has yet to be achieved. It would be wonderful to live in a world where women filmmakers are recognized for their wonderful films and not considered exceptional simply due to their gender. We have quite a lot to work through before we reach that point, but I’d like to think we’ll reach it eventually.