Part of me enjoyed an article in Friday’s The New York Times about a group of young women screenwriters: the self-dubbed Fempire, of whom the most famous member is Juno writer Diablo Cody. A larger part of me was incredibly frustrated. (Kind of how I felt about Juno, come to think of it.) Screenwriters tend not to be high-visibility marquee players in the eyes of the moviegoing public, but what they write lays the foundation for the films, which is one reason why women screenwriters are so important. Gender attitudes in mainstream movies are skewed enough as is, and one would hope that this article might signal that Hollywood is becoming more accepting of women having power behind the scenes.
But the article really enjoys bringing things back to the looks of the four writers. Besides Ms. Cody, there is Dana Fox (What Happens in Vegas), Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), and Liz Meriwether (writer of an unadopted TV pilot called Sluts). When writer Deborah Schoeneman described Meriwether as “a thinking man’s Scarlett Johansson,” it was almost enough to make me close my browser window. We get it! The Fempire is smart but also conventionally attractive! And while I appreciate that Schoeneman points out that they feel pressured to use stylists and present themselves in a way not required of their male counterparts, she also repeatedly mentions their looks. Additionally, the article appears in the Style section, not the Arts section.
And let’s have some masochistic fun dissecting producer Adam Siegel’s quote about the Fempire’s collective beauty: “I know a few beautiful women, but none of them write like Dana, Liz, Lorene or Diablo.” Uh, what? He says that “When you read a screenplay, it doesn’t come with a picture on the cover”, but the fact remains that all four women are attractive, slender, and white. Schoeneman’s point about women screenwriters feeling pressure to be “presentable” hits home at this point: being a young female screenwriter aiming for success and coverage apparently still means that you have to look like a thinking man’s Scarlett Johansson.