Ryan Murphy has yet to keep his promise. In a bid to rid the Hollywood industry of misogynistic and racist hiring, Murphy promised to fill half of his directing jobs with women and minorities.
His show, American Horror Story, an anthological horror television series, has been long-regarded as one of the best TV shows on air. From its opulent depiction of New Orleans’ witches to introducing Jessica Lange to a millennial audience, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck have captivated our minds with their blatant support of female actors and Coven’s sisterhood-driven storylines. Though, despite the show’s leading ladies and frank discussions of feminism and misogyny, the show had forgotten to revolutionise the discussion hot on everybody’s lips – the Hollywood gender gap.
Recently, Variety reported that only 7% of directors (on the top 250 films in Hollywood) were women. A shocking statistic upon realising the growing amount of feminist feature films; in comedy, both Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck and Tina Fey’s Sisters were directed by men. This leaves a large creative hole in Hollywood which questions whether directing is considered to be a job done by men, and then, in stark contrast, whether men are even able to correctly portray the female struggle, feminine integrity or anything to do with women at all.
Though Coven is commonly regarded as the best season of American Horror Story, many of its controversial storylines regarding women are dropped like a hot plate. Series creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, write the series’ opening episode, “Bitchcraft,” which tells the story of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) being violently “gang-raped” by a fraternity. The following directors of subsequent episodes seem to forget this ever happened, concentrating on Madison’s stereotypically teen personality traits rather than her trauma. To some, this indicated an ignorance to not only the pain many women face but to feminist belief altogether. Though this is likely brittle, plot-holed storytelling rather than outright misogyny, one questions whether these issues would have been correctly addressed had the series been directed by female directors who could handle topics of their own gender more appropriately.
However, recent announcements reveal they are finally forming a path for female creativity in the industry, where other popular shows have failed. Murphy’s promise may still stand. American Horror Story alum, Angela Bassett, and American film director-screenwriter, Jennifer Lynch, have been asked to direct episodes of the show’s secretive new season, currently subtitled with the mysterious ‘?6’ logo. However, these are only baby-steps in the grand scheme of gender equality in Hollywood – actors such as Jennifer Lawrence bring light to other issues such as the pay gap between female and male actors, for example.
In a TV show which portrays ancient, gruesome and bloody murders on a minute-by-minute basis, perhaps the only horror which touches upon contemporary, real-life problems is the horror of inequality.
Words: Otis Robinson