OK we realize this whole post is exactly what the title suggests it should not, but let us explain…
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the latest blockbuster offering from Marvel, and what’s cool is that it was written by a 33 year old woman: Nicole Perlman. In an interview with Time Magazine the self-confessed sci-fi nerd talks about her career rise and why she doesn’t want attention for her gender. That caught our attention, because while we are all for promoting female role models and trailblazers, it is important to note that we are doing this in the hope that more and more women will follow the footsteps of those gone before them, so that one day there is no gender imbalance in certain industries or landscapes.
Guardians is the first Marvel movie to have a credited female writer, and Nicole worked hard to get where she is today. She has been pitching Sci-Fi scripts since 2006 and was getting attention from industry media. Being a woman meant she was expected to write romantic comedies or films with women as the central character, which is something she pushed back against. She was told by studios that they weren’t sure she could write an action film. How absurd!
“They kept saying, ‘This is a guy’s movie, you know, it’s really a guy’s movie.’ I didn’t want to say, ‘Are you saying a woman can’t write a guy’s movie?’” Perlman recalls. “What is a guy’s movie anyway? If you’re making a movie that’s just for one gender, what’s the point?’”
In 2009 she joined the Marvel writers program and decided this would be her chance to prove her critics wrong. The team of writers could choose projects to work on for the two-year period, and she chose the lesser-known Guardians film.
“I can’t tell you what the other titles were that they were offering up on the table, but I can tell you that one of them was a little bit more appropriate for me, just based on gender,” she says. “I think they were a little taken aback when I chose Guardians, because there were ones that would make a lot more sense if you were a romantic-comedy writer or something like that.”
Her persistence paid off, and the Marvel program proved to be the perfect place to quiet the naysayers in the long run.
“I was definitely the only woman screenwriter that I’m aware of,” she says, “but they never made me feel disenfranchised for being a woman, which I really appreciated because I definitely have felt that at other studios.”
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the first film to be a product of the Marvel writers program, which is a big deal. Marvel are clearly putting their money where their mouths are in an effort to diversify all aspects of the industry. When the focus just becomes finding the most talented people, gender becomes less of an issue.
Today, Nicole is working on a Dreamworks film, but goes on to talk about her experience with Guardians being a revelation for her as a female writer. Showing that she can expertly craft character relationships as well as explosion scenes was important to show the studio they don’t need to fear hiring women as writers on an action blockbuster.
“I went out of my way to try and tell a story that was a little more unusual because I didn’t want to bring anything that was weak to the table as a female writer. You don’t want to be a woman writer about whom people could say ‘a woman can’t write science fiction.’ I think that in that way it very much spurred me to do the best work that I could. But I didn’t add more romance because I was a woman or anything like that.”
Nicole was recently part of a Sci-fi panel at Comic-Con, and while all the panelists happened to be women, it wasn’t mentioned in the title nor did the panel focus on gender. This is exactly the type of thing she hopes will be more common place in the future, rather than people thinking it is such a crazy thing to have an all-female panel.
“I thought that was so great, because that’s the obvious hook: like, put these women in a box and let’s all look at them! It’s just like these are people who are working and they all have stories to tell and they happen to be women,” she says. “I think we’re not there yet, but that’s where it’s headed.”
If more studios can foster untapped talent like Marvel, and get rid of bias that Nicole mentions she experienced early in her career, we think that will go a long way to showing audiences that good writers are good writers, no matter whether they are male or female.