Be "Brave": Brenda Chapman, Heartbreak, Hollywood, and Gender Inequality

BlogHer Original Post

There's a lot of conversation in BlogHer back channels around the current state of women in and television specifically. We often discuss the different ways we can help to spur the conversation and elevate our Hollywood counterparts from here on the web. And like many BlogHer Editors, I lead a double life -- curating and cultivating women's stories here and then changing hats and pounding the pavement as a screenwriter in the trenches of Tinseltown. The collective experience and varying viewpoints of my colleagues via the interwebs has begun to soften the most hardened and jaded part of myself out in the real world. The part of me that has been thumping my head against the celluloid ceiling, petrified of failure, threatening to splinter into oblivion.

The Woman in Hollywood.

It's lonely out here. I've blathered on elsewhere about being outnumbered in film school and beyond. It feels awkward and humiliating and wrong to say "this is harder for me", because how do you reconcile gender inequality with the fact that SOME people are breaking through? How do you say that each and every success of each and every other woman in Hollywood somehow feels like a personal affront to you and your work? Especially when you fancy yourself ambitious and even...gasp...talented, and you want it bad, and you work hard, and yet, thunk thunk thunk, you keeping butting up against that ceiling. The one you kept telling yourself for years and years and years wasn't there. But that raw, bloody, painful spot on the top of your head after nearly a decade of trying says otherwise. The ceiling is there. It's real. And if we don't talk about it, we're not going to be able to demo it for good.

I know other female screenwriters, TV writers, reality writers, what have you...but I never talk to them about how work is going. I never want to reveal the cracks it would take to inquire if they find it harder, this being a woman in Hollywood thing. I never show them the soft spot on the top of my head and ask them if they have one too.

Sometimes I wonder if things would be different if I did.

Brenda Chapman attends the LAFF premiere of BRAVE
Credit Image: © Michael Germana/Globe Photos/

The New York Times is hosting a Room for Debate right now on this very issue. And when I read Brenda Chapman's call to action for women in positions of power to mentor others yesterday, I was awed and moved by her revealing honesty when she commented for the first time on being replaced as the director of Brave. Brenda wrote --

Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them. We are replaced on a regular basis – and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels. But in the end, my vision came through in the film.

When a woman at the top of her game shows us her soft spot, I think we all gain something from it. Brenda goes on to talk about the importance of standing up for herself, for getting hurt, really hurt, but getting up, brushing herself off, and carrying on. I can't thank Brenda enough for her honesty, and for spurring on this important conversation, and I hope that we can continue this conversation here on BlogHer as well.

If you're a woman in film, I want to hear from you. Share your stories and triumphs with us. Let's start talking to each other, and figure out how to knock this ceiling out for good.


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