FIRST THOUGHT: Media Moments
Film and TV shows have a lasting impact on us. Duh. But I was thinking about how little we talk about media with friends. Today, share a media moment that made you feel something powerful with someone you know, like Sharon from the mailroom or Jim from church. Here, I’ll share one of mine that I’m pretty sure I haven’t told a single soul: An episode of Little House on the Prairie shook 9-year-old me, y’all. There’s a distinct moment in which Mary Ingalls finds out she’s going blind, and it’s both heartbreaking and terrifying. It’s something I’ll never forget; not just the scene, but also the way I felt watching it.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 12.5 Percent
In some weird way, I identified with the Ingalls family. Now, I identify a bit more with Nellie Oleson. (But I digress.) It’s vital to show a variety of characters in TV or film, particularly when it comes to race and gender. But we aren’t stupid; just because someone shares our same ethnicity doesn’t mean the role is realistic or empowering. In 2014, a disgustingly low number—12.5 percent, to be exact—of Hollywood movies had African-american speaking or named film characters. Let’s change the way we represent nuanced characters.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Ava DuVernay, Oscar-nominated Film Director
I remember in 2002, Halle Berry won the Best Actress Oscar. Then I remember learning that she was the first African-american woman to win that award, and I almost toppled over at that discovery. How could that be? We put the onus on the actresses, but implementing diversity has a great deal to do with who’s behind the camera, pitching the ideas, writing the scripts, casting the actors. That’s why women like today’s Woman to Watch, Ava DuVernay, are integral in increasing representation in film through well-rounded, thoughtful character portrayals.
You may have seen a little movie Ava just directed by the name of A Wrinkle in Time: You know, that tiny little film starring Oprah and Mindy Kaling. Ava signed a $100 million film deal and is the first African-american to direct with such a sizable budget. She’s making waves in Hollywood and we love it.
Ava’s a California girl who grew up in Long Beach and attended UCLA. Her breakthrough film was the powerful story Selma, and she’s since put out a breathtaking and eye-opening Netflix documentary called 13th, which explores race and mass incarceration. Chances are if you’ve ever connected with something on screen, Ava had an influence. Remember the Apple Music commercials she directed starring Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington, and Taraji P. Henson that aired one year during the Emmy’s? It was one of the most tweeted-about events.
This multifaceted powerhouse is using her influence for good by telling necessary stories that women of color can identify with. Once more, she’s speaking up for women at events like the first Time’s Up auction, with proceeds going toward the movement’s growing legal defense fund. Ava’s even offering a lucky bidder a chance to attend a post-production session on her new Netflix miniseries, “Central Park 5.”
When Ava spoke at Variety’s Power of Women event, she explained that the work we put out there is a mirror. So, what you see on screen is monumentally important, but so is the behind-the-scenes stuff, from the crew to the writers to the lawyers. Ava mentions that she relies heavily on her all-women team to make a point that representation is valuable at all ranks.
Take Ava’s advice and recognize that who you give your energy to in your career and who you work alongside matters. Choose wisely.
QUITE THE QUOTE
Here’s a quote by the Woman to Watch, Ava DuVernay:
"I want more girls to be able to see themselves behind the camera creating images we all enjoy, and I want to call attention to the fact that women directors are here all over the world."