Imposter Syndrome

Over the past year I’ve read Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso and Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. And if memory serves, I remember every single one of them describing struggling with something called Imposter Syndrome.

A quick wiki describes Imposter Syndrome as

a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved… [it] is particularly common among high-achieving women.”

Before I even start, I just cannot with this. That we have people like Adam Sandler walking around without a care in the world, who hasn’t made a good film since I was still in nappies, and these extremely hard working and evidently successful women feel this way. It makes me kinda mad. The feeling manifests in very different ways- women saying that their achievements aren’t good enough, or aren’t as good as their peers, as well as expressing shock and dismissiveness when praised with good work claiming that the success was merely luck or they had a lot of help.

Emma Watson is another extremely successful celebrity who has admitted to being plagued with this. As well as being a world famous actress, she is now an ambassador for UN Women and an incredible role model. However, she still seems to be coming to grips with her incredible success and achievements; all of which she is very deserving of. In British Vogue’s September issue she explains that, “when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an imposter.” She also describes in an interview with Rookie Mag that you can read here about how she felt that “any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.”

Emma Watson at UN Women conference #HeForShe

The Imposter Syndrome originates from a study conducted by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes back in 1978 called ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention’, you can read the study here. They explain that the Imposter Syndrome itself could manifest in “societal sex-role stereotyping” which would explain why the syndrome appears a lot more in women than in men. Girls grow up in societies which encourage them to be pretty and not play in the dirt, to not be bossy, to be ambitious but not too ambitious as to make men feel emasculated. As Clance and Imes go on to say, “a woman’s femininity is called into question by her success”- no wonder women are so quick to dismiss their successes. Being a ‘go-getter’ and ambitious are attractive qualities in men, it is a shame the same cannot be said for women. This article describes how the word ambition is a ‘dirty word’ and is practically an insult and when “applied to women, it’s almost a slur – the subtext somehow being that ambitious women are out to trample colleagues on the ladder to success, with family and friends littered somewhere down the bottom of the life priorities list.”

Similarly, the media have continuously portrayed successful women as being extremely unnattractive. Think Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’, or Sandra Bullock in ‘The Proposal’. It would be nice if women were encouraged to be successful and own it. Not to be described as ‘full of herself’ or ‘bitchy’ for knowing she’s a badass business woman and a successful woman period, whether she has two kids and a dog waiting for her at home or Netflix and popcorn.

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2014 Most Expensive Films

During the New Year I had a look back at the most successful films of 2014, and obviously noticed everything seemed a little… manly. Then I looked at the most expensive films made in 2014 and there were films such as ‘Maleficent’ which, as everyone knows, stars Angelina Jolie in the lead role, but everything still looked heavily sausage based.

So, using the source that I found, detailing the most expensive films made in 2014 (which you can find here), I did a little researching. Using IMDB I decided to list how many females were involved in the Top 15 most expensive films of 2014 using these criteria; amount of women listed in the top 5 casting list, how many of the writers were female and how many of these films were directed by women. This was merely an experiment to see just how much studios and production companies did actually back women and their abilities in this industry, and their willingness to give them the big bucks in order to make big blockbuster films created by and starring women.

And so, here are my results:

Film Name: Top 5 Cast: Writers Credit: Directors Credit:
Amazing Spiderman 2 1 0 0
Transformers: Age of Extinction 1 0 0
X-Men: Days of Future Past 2 1 0
Exodus: Gods and Kings 0 0 0
Maleficent 4 1 0
Edge of Tomorrow 1 0 0
Guardians of the Galaxy 1 1 0
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 1 0 0
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 1 1 0
Godzilla 1 0 0
Mr. Peabody & Sherman 1 0 0
How To Train Your Dragon 2 2 1 0
Noah 2 0 0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 0 0
300: Rise of the Empire 2 0 0
Totals: 21/75 (28%) 5/35 (14.2%) 0/15 (0%)

Simplifying this data we can see that of 75 actors just 21 of them were women, that’s just 28%. Let us remember that women take up about 50% of the actual population, that’s almost double the amount of women that are actually represented on screen in 2014 in the 15 most expensive films made. It is also fairly obvious that in most of these films, if women are represented, it’s through a more ‘token woman’ approach.

As for these films being influenced by women creatively, just 5 out of 35 writers were women. That’s 14.2%. And (though I wasn’t expecting miracles) the amount of female directors in these films was obviously 0.

Overall, there were only 26 women included in the 125 roles needed to create these films. Approximately 20.8%. Now, I know that these are specific criteria which I have hand selected, and so the data is debatable, however, I believe, does give a general indication of women actually included in films with big money. I could have chosen to examine just the lead-actor credit, in which case the resulting figure of represented females would have been considerably lower. If I had have chosen to use the top 10 billed cast, the figure would have been higher.

Regardless, I feel that this gives us a very stark insight into just how much the film industry, especially in Hollywood, is still controlled and taken up by men.

How can we expect female representations in film to change, and create films which pass the Bechdel test, or films where women are allowed to be complicated and complex when there are next-to-no women being allowed to create these characters through writing or direction. I think that we must put our faith where film studios with lots of money do not- into independent films. Films which are allowed more freedom of altering stereotypes and prejudices. And then eventually this will hopefully filter through to big Hollywood productions, who will then learn to change their ways. (One can only hope, right?!).

I understand that independent films are important and can help this change, but ultimately everyone’s eye is on Hollywood. It always is, and that is not changing. Hollywood productions reach the most people, and create the most impact, and so when women aren’t directing these films, audiences start to believe that women simply do not direct films, at all. Period. They believe that all women are supporting characters, and all women are just mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of a leading man.

I am not holding out much hope for significant change in 2015, however with films such as ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ and the all female-led ‘Ghostbusters’ in production I am at least seeing some more exposure to women overall. And what I am hoping is that these films will be successful and will show big studios with the big bucks that women can hold their own and can be interesting without being in reflection or reaction of male characters.

The Oscars: growth of the struggling white man.

The more I watch the Oscars and give into the hype each year, the more bored I become. The more predictable everything is and one day, I really hope, I’m just not going to participate in the farce at all. But we’ll see how that goes; I usually always give in to the circus of it all.

Let’s begin firstly with the obvious. Sooooo many white people. Like woah, they just kept churning them out didn’t they?! I obviously got my ‘google-on’ immediately and found this extremely interesting article that you can read here, all about how there hasn’t been such a white washed Oscars since 1998.

Now, lets get more specific and talk about the amount of white men that were taking up all the room. There’s a growing trend at the Oscars surrounding female-directed films being nominated for Best Picture, but their director being snubbed. This year that trope was given to ‘Selma’; Ava DuVernay directed this biopic detailing Martin Luther King’s visit to Selma, Alabama and it was widely praised by critics and audiences alike. So why the director snub? I found this little list here which shows how often this formula comes into play.

are you fucking kidding me

Right. Now that I have those annoyances out of my system, I can move onto my biggest gripe. All of the Best Picture nominees follow a particular narrative form- ‘man struggles, grows and finds himself.’ I think that pretty much sums it up in the most basic manner. Like seriously, every, single, one. Now what I mean by this narrative form is that all the films feature a male main character (almost always a white man, the only exception coming from Selma), who struggles to find himself and to deal with this personal growth that he’s battling, only to eventually overcome said obstacles and become a form of hero.

I touched on this subject slightly within my last post discussing the ‘Ant-Man’ trailer, and how it’s overdone and if I have to watch another one of those stories I might pull all of my hair out. Seriously, HOW many different men can I watch go through personal struggles? Surely we’ve exhausted every possible alternative outcome and way that this can be done.

In it’s most SIMPLE forms we have:

‘American Sniper’- man doesn’t like killing people, it fucks with his head and he has a bad time of it. ‘Birdman’- tired actor who used to be a superhero, has existential crisis, has a bad time of it. ‘The Theory of Everything’- man becomes disabled, overcomes his issues, has a bad time of it. ‘Whiplash’- man gets a tutor, tutor is mean, pupil has a bad time of it.

Okaaaay, I could go on but do you see my point? I am not at all demeaning or lessening the struggles of these men, and the things that they have been through, but just why so many men? Y’know Academy, women go through struggles too, we don’t just help the men go through all of their shit and then fade into the background once they’re all happy with themselves again. Now, a lot of people will probably argue ‘ahh but most of these films are based on real events and real people who were male, so maybe if women did more amazing stuff then they’d get cool films made about them too’. Well… no, it doesn’t work like that. Cos even when they do, they just get snub snub snubbed I’m afraid.

‘Cake’, ‘Wild’, ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Still Alice’ are all films which feature female leads. They’re all white I’m afraid but I chose them as being the most likely to have been considered by the Oscars, so I had to think like an old white man. Ew. Any/all of these films could have been nominated. Hell, there were only 8 out of 10 films nominated for Best Picture this year, they could have just added two in for the hell of it. But no, as well as non-whites, non-males also got snubbed this Oscars season and frankly it’s becoming extremely repetitive and boring.