Did you spend yet another evening slumped in front of the telly, re-watching episode after episode of Queer Eye? Don’t worry, this isn’t a lecture about the dangers of spending too much time in front of a screen. Instead, we want to let you know that Netflix has finally introduced a “movies directed by women” category, and that means we can now successfully claim our binge-watching habits are feminism in action.
The streaming service has always had a wide-ranging, eclectic variety of films available and you might be surprised by the selection of movies in this new category. Ava DuVernay’s Selma, Mary Harron’s American Psycho and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are just some of the big-name titles available, alongside independent, critic-pleasing films like Beach Rats, Loving Vincent and I Am Not A Witch. There’s comedy from Tig Notaro, Hannah Gadsby and Ellen DeGeneres, and a huge assortment of documentaries, including but certainly not limited to Paris Is Burning, Take Your Pills and Seeing Allred.
When it comes to what sort of films are made, the power is in the audience’s – our – hands
More than anything, the category shows that the talent of female directors is huge and neverending. Whether it’s a romcom in the vein of The Holiday, a family-friendly animation like Arthur Christmas or a socially aware historical drama such as Haifaa al-Mansour’s 2018 Mary Shelley biopic, women are capable of telling all kinds of stories in thousands of different ways.
All this makes the news that the number of films directed by women is falling even harder to hear. In 2018, just 8% of the most successful Hollywood films were directed by a woman – a statistic that stood at 11% the year before. “It's still unreasonably hard for young female directors to get through,” Bird Box director Susanne Bier told The Pool. “It’s a language thing – whoever decides on financing movies are still men. So, if you have a young woman and a young man coming in, immediately the young man has access to the language the male-dominated world speaks.”
Netflix’s efforts to highlight and celebrate the female directors in its stable makes it easier for us to change these dismal numbers. When it comes to what sort of films are made, the power is in the audience’s – our – hands. If we engage with these movies and exploit Netflix’s algorithms to bump them up to the homepage, studios will have no choice but to listen and hire more women in directorial roles. So, put your PJs on, settle down on the couch and watch as much Netflix as possible.