‘Transparent’s’ Jill Soloway Wants to Stop ‘Perpetuating Male Privilege Through Protagonism’

Diane Kruger, Rena Ronson, Jill Soloway
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“It’s weird … I wrote the Emmys three years ago,” said “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway — who’s nominated for Emmys in the comedy series writing and directing categories — at Women in Film and UTA’s chic shopping fundraiser hosted by Barneys NY Beverly Hills on Monday night.

“I was watching people walk offstage, carrying their statues, and I was backstage with Jane (Lynch), my sister and I writing her jokes and making sure the show was going all right. So it’s really funny … but it’s hard to feel. I want to try and feel it all,” confessed Soloway, one of the night’s four hosts. Despite the success her Amazon hit found at the Golden Globes, she still feared the Emmys might “favor established shows.” “I’ve been having a lot of dance parties and I can celebrate, but for the most part, it’s hard to take it in and realize that it’s happening to me.”

If 11 Emmy noms for her “autobiographical” story are any indication, her impact is profound: “To have a conversation with Kim Kardashian, where she said that her family watched the show together; or to have a conversation with Caitlyn (Jenner), where she said that ‘Transparent’ helped her see a world where a parent could come out and be loved by their daughters or their family. … To watch Caitlyn at the ESPY Awards look at her daughters on the show and to feel like my sister and I … that we might have had some small effect on the way a much more famous family was able to also welcome their trans-parent into the world. … Like, to go from that feeling of, ‘I don’t quite understand this and I don’t know what it’s going to mean,’ to ‘oh, my expression of love for my parent is having a global effect,’ it’s crazy to me.”

What may seem crazier is that Soloway, along with “Homeland” director Lesli Linka Glatter and “Mad Men” writer Semi Chellas, represent the only women (vs. 20 men) nominated in top comedy or drama series writer-director categories. Even as Soloway makes gains, women are not gaining overall — prompting a bevy of well-heeled women to sip rose sangria and purchase raffle tickets in an attempt to lessen a persistent gender divide. But why does this inequality exist, and what can be done?

“I think, as the ACLU is investigating the illegality of keeping women from directing positions, male creators, showrunners, producers and directors have to really face the immorality, their own immorality, of hiring their friends, of telling male stories, of perpetuating male privilege through protagonism,” said Soloway, clad in electric pink as an extra show of feminism. “So that means the male gaze — men as subject, women as object — is business as usual for men to be able to keep telling their stories from their point of view. … (They need to) really offer women the chance to write, to direct, and then to empower them once they are writing and directing, and say, ‘tell your story, tell your story!’”

Who’s leading the pack? “I really applaud Judd Apatow for, over the past few years, using his privilege to give access to people like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer,” Soloway said. “Paul Feig is doing the same thing, helping the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ get made. They should be examples to other men who have power and give access to female creators that they admire.”

Co-host and WIF board member Rena Ronson, a partner at United Talent Agency, is excited about WIF’s growing younger constituency, and the research being conducted with USC and the Sundance Institute. “Women enter film school at the same rate as their male counterparts, but somehow only 4% of the top-grossing films are directed by women. So where is the shift happening between film school and the real world?” she posed. “As the mother of a teenage daughter who has no real issues with gender, my daughter believes she has the opportunity to pursue whatever career she wants, and I don’t want that to change.”

Actress and co-host Greta Gerwig, who just co-wrote and stars in the film “Mistress America” (about an unlikely friendship between two women, one 18 and the other 30, out in August) made another telling gender observation. “When I’ve talked to a lot of female writers or directors or actors, a lot of times when they talk about their trajectories to becoming directors, they say something — and I’ve heard it echoed by enough people — that, ‘it honestly never occurred to me that I could be a director.’ And I think it makes sense, because there aren’t that many examples!”

Actress Diane Kruger agreed, noting that the dearth of opportunities mandates camaraderie. “Because the roles are so few, there’s such a sense of ‘you’ve got to stick together,’” she said, citing as a recent example when she asked Dunham to participate in a French film she was producing. (“We’d only ever met once at some industry party, and she was so sweet and open.”)

Still, despite the lack of females nominated for major Emmys, “There’s women in lots of other categories, including documentary and producing, and we’re excited about that,” said Women in Film’s executive director Kirsten Schaffer. “I’m thrilled for (director) Dee Rees, that she got a nomination for ‘Bessie,’ because I think it’s an exceptional project, and I’m excited for Jill, because ‘Transparent’ is such an important show.” About Soloway, she stated, “I think she stands out because she’s really authentic and she’s really connected to something within her that’s true and real.”

Soloway put into words the process of her family’s now-famous epiphany: “It’s like the lights go on. … And then everybody transitions, everybody has to transition.” Women fighting to be in film share similar hope.

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  1. Randall Starr says:

    What a nice, steaming pile.

  2. LauraF says:

    Such an important subject about talented people working toward change, and such a bunch of negative comments. It’s hard enough to fight an establishment, but fighting the general public too? It makes it all the more difficult and helps feed the notion that women don’t create things of value or interest to more than just a small audience. Cheers to Jill Soloway and those like her.

  3. Judi says:

    Another professional victim.

  4. Trucker says:

    If I were Jill Soloway I would not be bragging about writing the Emmys. They’re horrible every year.

  5. John J. says:

    Women are running Hollywood and they’re still bitching? Please!

  6. PatriceG says:

    I don’t understand all this talk about how men still run things. They don’t. The tide has turned. There are a lot of shows about women out there. I was talking to a friend who works on the set of Girlfriends Guide to Divorce and asked her why there are no Hispanic or African American women on that show. She shrugged and said it just doesn’t fit the show at this time. And then she said “but there are gay people”. I’m not sure what that had to do with anything. Its a show about rich white women wearing fancy clothes and having sex. You can’t throw a sister in there? No wonder I can’t stand it. As to Transparent, they could do better. Throw in a minority here and there. It’s a great show with a great message. Why not? All this whining too about women aren’t getting their fair share is ridiculous. Women are surpassing men. Eventually men in Hollywood will be the minority. Owned by rich white vegan girls from hip places like Silver Lake.

    • Mackie says:

      Because women in Hollywood are becoming the new gays of Hollywood, playing the perpetual victim while earning millions of dollars and only hiring their own while complaining it is not enough of “them” working.

  7. James says:

    Love how we see four beautiful white women with no sign of a minority in the picture posted. And, while we’re talking about Jude Apatow and Paul Feig, let’s talk about the fact that each story involving women has also been about…you guessed it….white women (Except for the single black Ghostbuster which seems more like a nod to Ernie Hudson than to anything authentic). Regardless, I don’t want to hear bullshit quotes about perpetuating male privilege through protagonism when there is ONE woman of color mentioned and every white woman mentioned with the exception of Lena Dunham is gorgeous and skinny.

  8. BillUSA says:

    Just another nobody carping about something that isn’t there in order to gain attention. There is no conspiracy here. Say, for example, if every director was a woman. There would still exist a queue (if you will) of the preferred directors over the rest of the ranks. There wouldn’t (nor should there be) an outcry for equality there. It’s the nature of things in order to move forward. That is to say, the evolution of a thing in order to improve it’s chances of survival (in this particular case that is further defined as improving the quality of pictures).

    I can’t stand tokenism because it’s an insult to the targeted demographic and weakens the quality of the workforce. That men hold most of the directorial positions isn’t due to some conspiracy, it’s just the way things evolved. Granted, women haven’t been treated equally throughout history, but this isn’t an equality issue. If more women want to direct then they should do everything in their power to place themselves where opportunity can present itself in order to be taken advantage of.

    Otherwise, the accusations thrown around like yesterdays confetti in this clamor for equality is simply a falsehood because in truth, what they’re pining for is dominance. Dominance comes to those who earn it and artificiality is the exploitable weakness of those who deny its existence. if these types of women want equality perhaps they should learn the art of recognizing it first.

    And it’s still Bruce Jenner, male.

  9. ... says:

    No comment about the transphobic joke Jill Solloway posted on her Facebook about (then) Bruce Jenner?

    • Forley says:

      No, because no one has to be ape-shit “outraged” at every little joke, including those about Bruce Jenner.

  10. Lisa says:

    Jill was responsible for that Emmys show? What an awful edition that was. The Emmy singers were a bad joke that kept going all night.

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