Reel Talk: Male directors are problematic, so what?


Jillian Leiby, JagWire opinions editor

Sunday, I celebrated my mother’s birthday. Since she has given me the gift of life, I figured I could give her a couple days where she chooses what she wants to do. This apparently means seeing “The Martian” at 11:30 in the morning, when I would much rather be in bed.

I had been reluctant to see “The Martian.” Ridley Scott’s last round in the director’s chair was “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which was incredibly racist. Scott’s response to the controversy made me incredibly dislike him.

I have a history of being unforgivable to directors who have done bad things in the past. Like really bad things. Woody Allen cheated on his partner, actress Mia Farrow, with her teenage daughter, and ended up marrying her. He has also been accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter. That entire family is a little crazy. But, I also really enjoyed “Blue Jasmine” and felt Cate Blanchett’s performance deserved the accolades it received.

David O. Russell is known to be an attention-seeking hothead (George Clooney will never work for him again) who says and does a lot of terrible and insensitive things. Still, the entertainment industry is very excited about his upcoming film “Joy” with Jennifer Lawrence, who also received a lesser salary in Russell’s “American Hustle,” despite doing the same work as the men. I would love for him to never succeed again, but my feelings don’t seem to hinder his career in anyway.

The list goes on. Continually, (male) directors or actors are given leeway to do whatever they want, as long as they keep churning out quality work. What does that mean for the film industry? And what does that mean that I enjoy their movies?

When I saw “The Martian” this weekend, I enjoyed it immensely. It was funny and heartwarming, but also suspenseful and sad. Matt Damon (who has also done some problematic things) is one of the most charismatic actors around. The diversity of the cast was surprisingly good, considering Scott’s previous racist comments. I was honestly shocked by my own enjoyment.

Some days, holding grudges over people who don’t even know who you are is tiring. On one hand, it’s not OK to perpetuate the terrible things these men have done. On the other, it never feels like my boycotting does anything to the overall success of the film (see: “American Sniper”). I’m not a perfect person, and, until someone with actual influence in the film industry does something, I’m going to keep watching the movies.

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