The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about why hating popular movies doesn’t make you cool. I still believe that no one should be worried about their taste in movies. However, there’s something that I didn’t mention, and that is that watching something just because it’s “popular” sometimes has its consequences.
The other day, while searching for something to watch on Netflix, I noticed a good amount of new stories written and directed by women, which makes me think that one of the most influential streaming platforms is betting on an entertainment industry with talented women off and on screen. But it’s still not enough.
Even though Netflix “wants” to showcase female filmmakers, this opportunity disappears when they decide to release a blockbuster (a Hollywood movie made with a large budget and big stars) at the same time that steals the audience’s attention from what needs support.
In 2021, Fortune magazine released an article stating that women direct 23% of Netflix films, and the company will now spend $5 million to boost that number. That might seem like a generous amount, but as an example, the Netflix original blockbuster The Gray Man by Anthony and Joe Russo (aka the masterminds behind Marvel’s Avengers), starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, had a budget of $200 million (the most expensive production Netflix has so far). Despite the film having a 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes and receiving criticism from the audience, the movie had 223.93 million hours streamed in its first seventeen days of release, firmly putting it in the Top 6 Netflix movies of All-Time.
This is frustrating for female filmmakers because it demonstrates Netflix’s almost fake interest in showcasing female projects to a bigger audience. Women in cinema will accept whatever support they can get to at least be part of the industry, but when will that change? Is Netflix the actual villain?
Sometimes people forget that Netflix and the film industry are massive businesses and the people behind the studios have an artistic side and a business side. In 2018, the box office revenue of the global film industry was worth $136 billion. If you think about it, that number is us; we are the money, and we are technically giving orders to the studios about what they should produce based on what we watch or consume.
It is basically the law of supply and demand applied in film. Netflix releases a movie, we watch it, and the movie turns into a “success” (because of the number of views). Then Netflix produces another movie using the same formula, thinking it will become a success again.
The problem with this is that these soon-to-be-a-success projects leave no room for creativity and originality, and Netflix entrusts them with more budget knowing they will surely recover it at the box office. Another example that I can think of is The Kissing Booth trilogy. The first movie had up to 18 million views within the first week of its release. Then Netflix announced the second and third movies. The Kissing Booth 2 became part of Netflix’s Top 10 All-Time Movies with 209,250,000 million hours streamed in the first 28 days.
A consequence of watching a popular movie is that Netflix will only entrust $5 million to new voices of female filmmakers because they will not bet so much money on something that they don’t know will captivate the audience.
Going back to the two questions I asked: When will the industry change in favor of female filmmakers? And is Netflix the actual villain? I still see a lot of entertainment articles putting all the blame on the big studios and streaming platforms. But I hope it’s clear that the answer is that we as consumers have the power, and what we consume can make us the villain in the story.
We shouldn’t feel ashamed. I will continue to enjoy blockbuster movies. We just have to learn to reflect on what we consume and understand the role we have in the industry. And remember that the best way to support women in film is watching movies made by women any time we can.