Can Female Directors Help Prevent On Set Rape?

last tango in paris, marlon brando

We need more female directors.

Last Tango in Paris is a 1972 film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. It was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. In it, the 48 year old Brando rapes the 19 year old Maria Schneider on film using butter as lubricant. Schneider did not know about this scene prior to filming. Brando and Bertolucci got the idea after being served a baguette with butter for breakfast.

How. Did. This. Happen?

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Maria Schneider first spoke out about the scene in 2007 in an interview with The Daily Mail. She said, "I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take." Schneider continued that, "I wanted to be recognised as an actress and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown." Her life after filming was marked by drug use, overdoses, a suicide attempt, and a check in to a mental institution.

Almost as disgraceful as the scene itself is the world's non-reaction to Schneider's reveal of the on screen rape until it was finally disclosed by Bertolucci. In this interview, Bertolucci says that, "I didn't tell her what was going on because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress...I feel guilty, but I do not regret." Why did we only believe the account, or care about it, when it was talked about by a man?

Celebrities responded to the news on Twitter.

The entertainment community was in an outrage, urging people to destroy the movie and prosecute anyone involved. Anna Kendrick correctly tweeted, "Ms Schneider stated this several years ago. I used to get eye-rolls when I brought it up to people (aka dudes)."

We need to avoid incidents like these happening on sets. Where women are being taken advantage of, manipulated, intimidated, treated as props and objects instead of professionals. How do we do this? How about putting MORE women in charge.

As of right now, only 7% of the top 250 films were directed by women. TV executives are 71% male and studio film executives are 100% male. Yes, 100%.

I asked director Ryan Case (Modern Family, the Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) about the importance of female directors in Hollywood, and how they can avoid occurrences such as these.

What was your initial reaction to this story?

This sort of thing has been happening in Hollywood forever. "Girl 27" is a really eye opening documentary to watch on the subject. To summarize, in 1936, a 19 year old aspiring actress was raped at a studio event where she was basically used as a party favor. Hollywood executives were complicit in covering up the incident. Her life was ruined as a result. I'm also haunted by story of Alfred Hitchcock's treatment of Tippi Hedren during the making of "The Birds." The story of male directors abusing actresses is nothing new. For too long, Hollywood has been a vehicle for the male ego and actresses have been used as props instead of people.

Why do you think male directors feel comfortable overstepping professional boundaries with female actresses?

An essential part of an actor's job is to open up emotionally and be transparent. It is such a shame that many directors over the years have made women in that position feel threatened. All the while, the male actors have been able to concentrate on their performance and feel safe in the same space. It disgusts me and I'm determined to change it.

Why is it important to have more female directors, especially to avoid these kinds of situations?

Female directors have stories to tell that haven't even begun being told. We also are generally very in tune with our emotions and armed with strong intuition. We are able to deeply connect with everyone in the creative process WHILE showing great respect. We connect with the audience as well. I could go on for a WHILE about this but I have never felt anything but empowered by my gender in my job.

Why is there a reluctance to hire female directors?

Unqualified men have often been handed opportunities for various reasons while women have been made to prove themselves. I say we embrace that and outdo the men. I also think we have to impart a new sort of wisdom to our daughters and the next generations of women. Young girls should be taught to take risks and my favorite lesson, "Fake it til you make it." Men are emboldened from a young age with tons of confidence. We women have to start bolstering each other and shunning all the insecurities placed upon us. I want to tell every young woman out there that they'd care a lot less about their looks if they focused on their own happiness and achieving their dreams. That feels better than any makeover.

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