The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Next generation of queer and women filmmakers drive change

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As “Barbie” and “Bottoms” surpassed expectations with financial and critical success, the vastly different films sparked a discussion about women and LGBTQIA+ representation in Hollywood and the classroom. 

Once pre-sale tickets were available, Box Office Pro tracked “Barbie” to earn the highest opening weekend box office of the year, officially grossing $162 million domestically. Before “Barbie,” director Greta Gerwig’s biggest opening weekend was “Little Women” at $16 million, according to Box Office Mojo reports.

“Bottoms” had its own success when it grossed $461,052 on ten screens on its opening weekend, earning similar numbers as the independent film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” did in 2022. According to Deadline, these were two of the biggest post-Covid-19 opening weekends for independent films based on the highest per-screen average on ten or more screens.

While “Barbie” is a blockbuster based on the existing intellectual property of a doll and “Bottoms” is an original independent film about lesbians creating a fight club, both films are defined by women in front of and behind the camera. 

“Barbie” continues to shatter cinematic records, with its global and domestic box office being in the top 15 of all time. Only four films of this pedigree in the worldwide box office have a female protagonist: “Titanic,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Frozen II” and now “Barbie.”  

According to San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 33% of the top-grossing films of 2022 featured a female protagonist. Heather Montes-Ireland, an assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul and a faculty affiliate of the LGBTQ+ studies program, described the pattern of women pulling away from an androcentric society. Montes-Ireland said Hollywood’s representation issues reflect a larger societal perception that stories from marginalized groups “won’t sell.”

“There are many narratives around masculinity that encompass this industry,” Montes-Ireland said. “[Hollywood] is one of those places where it is persistently deeply sexist, ageist, racist. Sort of this investment in the patriarchy.” 

Audiences proved that was not the case.  

According to The New York Times, the opening weekend of “Barbie” had an audience of 65% women and skewed younger, with the largest age demographic being 18-24 years old.

“Bottoms” produced similar numbers in its exit poll during its opening night, according to Deadline. 57% of the audience identified as female, 86% were 18-34 years old and 59% identified as queer.  

As “Barbie” continues to succeed with its digital release, sitting at the top spot on iTunes as of Sept. 21, it proves that audience is not an issue for these films. Montes-Ireland said this is still not a reason to be complacent about the representation within the film industry.  

“As film consumers, as film critics, as film lovers, who are we holding up on a pedestal and why?” Montes-Ireland said.

Others agree that one film should not be the definitive representation of an entire population. 

Fatou Samba, a professional lecturer and co-creator of a DePaul class on inclusive representation in film and television, pointed out that while creators are responsible for fairly depicting characters that do not represent themselves, people within marginalized communities who need to be seen on screen should be given more opportunities.

“We shouldn’t just be content with scraps,” Samba said. “Movies and television shows created by [and] produced by marginalized groups are important so we don’t get stuck in this plastic representation.”  

When women of color receive opportunities behind the camera, an added pressure exists, Montes-Ireland said. She noted that if a film is not an overwhelming success, it is more likely to be viewed as unworthy by film executives, who are mostly straight white men.

DePaul film students are working, in their own way, to break barriers.

In 2017, students founded the DePaul Film Fatales club to provide a safe space for women to create and discuss films outside the classroom, according to Kylie Ramirez, a DePaul alumna and former club president. The club later expanded to include nonbinary and LGBTQ+ voices to create a more inclusive environment.

“Your experience is different when you identify in a certain way,” said Leen Rihani, vice president of the Film Fatales. “The eyes on you are so different. The stares, the glares, the comments that you’re getting — it affects you.”  

Of the top 250 films of 2022, 7% of cinematographers were women, according to San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. It can be intimidating to enter a male-dominated space, but the Film Fatales club supports its club members when going against the expectations created by Hollywood.

But discussions and workshops only go so far. According to Ramirez, initiative and using the technology at their fingertips to create something meaningful for the self is the biggest goal of any filmmaker.

Montes-Ireland agrees that is the piece that may resonate the most and lead to change.

“You are an activist through your art,” she said. “It lasts beyond our lifetimes, the culture that we make.”

Editor’s note: This version of story corrects spelling of last name Montes-Ireland in two paragraphs.

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