On Thursday, actress Natalie Portman publicly responded to Rose McGowan’s criticism denouncing her girl power Oscar gown as hypocritical in light of the fact Portman has apparently empowered few women in the film industry.
This year’s Academy Award nominations caused a stir among feminists due to the absence of women filmmakers in the Best Director category. On Oscar night, Portman decided to show her solidarity with these allegedly snubbed lady filmmakers by wearing a cape embroidered with their names.
“I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year, in my subtle way,” Portman said on the red carpet.
Shortly thereafter, actress Rose McGowan, one of Harvey Weinstein’s main accusers and a noted feminist, blasted Portman’s empty virtue-signaling in light of the fact that her production company has hired only one female director: herself.
“Some thoughts on Natalie Portman and her Oscar ‘protest.’ The kind of protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery. Brave? No, not by a long shot,” said McGowan in a lengthy Facebook post. “More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares. As so many of them do … Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career — one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director — you. You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem.”
“I am singling you out because you are the latest in a long line of actresses who are acting the part of a woman who cares about other women,” continued McGowan. “Actresses who supposedly stand for women, but in reality do not do much at all. Of course women in the world will keep buying the perfumes you promote, the movies you make, and think they’re buying into who you are. But who are you?”
Natalie Portman’s subtle tribute to female filmmakers at the 2020 Oscars did not go over well with McGowan, who called Portman’s show of support — wearing a cape with the names of women who directed films in the past year — “an actress acting the part of someone who cares.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Portman agreed with McGowan’s assertions that it is entirely “inaccurate” to call her Oscar dress “brave” in any way.
“I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” Portman said in a statement to CNN. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”
“The past few years have seen a blossoming of directing opportunities for women due to the collective efforts of many people who have been calling out the system,” she continued. “The gift has been these incredible films. I hope that what was intended as a simple nod to them does not distract from their great achievements.”
On the issue of her not actually working with that many women directors, Portman admitted this to be true, though she cited the work she has done with women directors on short films, commercials, music videos, and film projects she failed to get off the ground. She also lamented about the alleged sexist barriers that women directors face in the industry and challenges of making their projects a reality.
“It is true I’ve only made a few films with women,” Portman said. “In my long career, I’ve only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times. I’ve made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat, and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history.”
“As Stacy Smith of USC has well documented, female films have been incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed,” she continued. If these films do get made, women face enormous challenges during the making of them. I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work. After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level. So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”