Review: Valiant Documentary, ‘This Changes Everything,’ Probably Won’t

This isn’t a review I wanted to write. Make no mistake: I had more than a passing desire to see This Changes Everything, a fascinating documentary about discrimination against women in Hollywood. Like many people of my age and ilk, I consider myself to be enlightened. I don’t think I hold to the sexist viewpoints and behaviors of the past. When I find them, lying about like abandoned couches in my subconscious, I make every attempt to move them and overcome them.

That all says maybe. The fact is I’m still a straight white guy in the American South. In a situation like this, I worry that becomes a detriment to me. After all, what do I really know about the problems women face? How many biases do I exhibit on a daily basis that I’m not even aware of? Because of my own self-assessment, I did not feel qualified to write this review.

However, I’m glad I watched This Changes Everything. And I’ll say this: you should watch it, too. Your gender, orientation, or heritage doesn’t matter. Make the time to see this film. There is information contained with this movie, hard data that we all, especially people who consume visual media, need to know.

This Changes Everything paints a clear picture of the importance of on-screen representation. There are women who didn’t realize they could be anything besides girlfriends or sidekicks until they saw Thelma and Louise. And since 80% of worldwide media content is created in the US, that kind of revelation was a global epiphany. Thelma and Louise was supposed to change everything.

It didn’t.

Any time women have made any kind of inroads into the entertainment business, it was supposed to have kicked off a revolution. According to the data, that has never happened. Hollywood is still a land ruled by men. Women have always been required to be beautiful, not smart. In the movies, smart girls don’t get laid by handsome, rugged men.

Did you know there was a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Director’s Guild of America? I didn’t. Have you heard of The CSI Effect? I had not. And have you made the connection between the advent of talkies and the onset of sexism in movies? It hadn’t occurred to me until This Changes Everything.

The documentary paints an insidious picture, but it doesn’t spend its entire time painting men as the enemy. Take, for example, FX Network CEO, John Landgraf, who made a concerted attempt to diversify the creative staff for his productions. He was presented with irrefutable numbers, saw all the white men who were making his television shows, and went out of his way to change it.

As Meryl Streep says in This Changes Everything, “Progress will happen when men take a stand.” The inherent worry is that men won’t do that. The status quo could remain. While the documentary does give hope for change in the future, it’s still fairly bleak. Stories from performers like Rashida Jones, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Taraji P. Henson hammer that point home.

I see This Changes Everything as being potentially empowering for women and enlightening for men. The nitty-gritty of how Hollywood really works is laid out in full detail. Surprisingly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes off especially bad. Detail lovers and those who enjoy behind-the-scenes stuff will find lots to love in This Changes Everything, too.

But the main concept of the film remains constant. Men must do better. They have to move aside and let parity become the norm. And yet, two small things about the documentary bother me. The director of This Changes Everything is a male, Tom Donahue. Much of the data was culled from research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Ms. Davis is credited as executive producer of the film. While the part of me that is desperate to be a better human wants to swallow this movie whole, the skeptical side of me wonders when it will be used as a fundraising tool. I may be seeing conflict where none exists, but I cannot say those two things didn’t jump out at me.

On the whole, however, I absolutely recommend this movie. It is reprehensible how poorly women have been treated throughout history. Their place in the entertainment industry is no different. This Changes Everything, even with its faults, has the potential to send things in a positive direction for women in Hollywood, regardless of their color or orientation.

The fear is that it won’t.

This Changes Everything opens in Toronto August 30, with one night screenings in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver.

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