2 stories by the same writer highlight how differently we view talented men and women.

We've really got to stop doubting women's talents — for the sake of us all.

When news broke that Cathy Yan was tapped to direct the upcoming "Suicide Squad" spin-off "Birds of Prey," a lot of people were pretty excited.

Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. was first to report that Yan, whose only other feature-length credit was directing the small-budget darling of Sundance "Dead Pigs," would take the helm of the film fronted by Margot Robbie.

Yan will become the first Asian woman to direct a big-budget superhero movie and the third female director in the DC Extended Universe alongside Patty Jenkins ("Wonder Woman") and Ava DuVernay ("New Gods"). Given the less-than-pleasant reviews of director David Ayers' "Suicide Squad" (currently sitting at an abysmal 27% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), Yan's hire could be the key to saving the franchise.


Jen Yamato of the Los Angeles Times called the hire "a major milestone for women and directors of color in Hollywood, where studio directors remain largely white and male."

Yan attends the "Dead Pigs" premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, Fleming framed Yan's hire as a pretty big risk.

On its own, of course, that's not really a problem. Let's be real: Handing over the keys of a franchise to a relatively inexperienced director is taking a pretty big risk. Tens of millions of dollars ride on these types of decisions. Here's what Fleming had to say (emphasis added):

"This is a bold bet for Warner Bros’ Geoff Johns and Walter Hamada, who oversee DC under Toby Emmerich. Yan got the job over numerous well established male directors, and because she is taking this giant leap with just one small-budget indie movie under her belt. That would be 'Dead Pigs,' a film that won the World Cinema Dramatic Award For Ensemble Acting at Sundance last January. Despite being a new talent, Yan’s presentation for 'Birds of Prey' was exceptional, and Robbie held firm to her desire for this film to be directed by a woman."

Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn in the upcoming "Birds of Prey" film. Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Samsung.

If you compare how the same writer at the same outlet described decisions to hire similarly inexperienced white men, however, there's a clear contrast.

Following the publication of the Yan announcement, TV writer Nancy Kiu called attention to Fleming's 2013 post on Deadline about Colin Trevorrow taking on "Jurassic World."

Here's an excerpt from that piece (again, emphasis added):

"Trevorrow made his jump to features on 'Safety Not Guaranteed,' which FilmDistrict acquired and released and which grossed $4 million. He’s making a humungous step up in every way by joining a franchise which, in three films, has grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide, with Universal preparing a theatrical rerelease of the first film in 3D on April 5.

Why Trevorrow? He met with the studio and filmmakers, and they felt he was a good match for the material, having grown up a huge fan of the trilogy and part of a new generation of directors steeped in all things dinosaur. They felt he would preserve and protect the characters in the story they created."

In other words, Trevorrow was celebrated for his personal accomplishment while a lot of hedging and second-guessing was applied to Yan.

As a culture, we have a tendency to second-guess women and people of color.

And we do this in ways we wouldn't second-guess white men — even when it's not intentional.

To be clear, Fleming and Deadline certainly aren't the only offenders. When "Wonder Woman" was about to be released, The Hollywood Reporter drew the ire of many over an article and tweet that referred to the hire of Patty Jenkins as a "gamble."

In hindsight, the concern seems pretty silly as "Wonder Woman" took in more than $820 million worldwide and accumulating some major critical praise.

This goes way beyond just how we write about movies. In fact, its effects are felt in just about everything we do.

A shocking and saddening 2017 study found that girls as young as age 6 had come to believe that women can't be brilliant. The researchers concluded that gendered stereotypes played a big role in girls' self-doubt.

"These stereotypes discourage women's pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance," the study's authors wrote.

Yan introduces her film "Dead Pigs" at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

That effect happens at the larger cultural level, but luckily, there's something we can do about it — focus. Focusing on which words we choose, whether we're expressing doubt (and doing so fairly) and why we might describe one person's career move as a "leap forward" versus a "gamble. However that applies in our individual lives with our colleagues, parents, or friends, we can all be more conscious about the powerful words we use.

Upworthy has reached out to Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. and will update if a response is received.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular