‘Nashville’ Creator Says Women Shouldn’t Give Up Fighting For Gender Equality In Hollywood


If you are a fan of good TV drama there’s a big chance you have seen ABC’s ‘Nashville’ which stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as feuding country music stars. The woman behind this successful TV hit is Callie Khouri, who also wrote and directed the iconic feminist film ‘Thelma and Louise’ from 1991. Not only did she write and direct it (her first script ever) but she also won the Academy Award in 1992 for Best Original Screenplay (a category typically dominated by men) A Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.

Callie spoke with Liza Donnelly from Forbes.com about women in Hollywood and her advice to reach equal representation in this powerful industry.

Liza’s opening remark in her transcribed interview is that a great way to forward the cause of feminism is to cloak it in pop culture, which is exactly what Callie is doing. While this idea can be taken in a negative angle (people who claim to be doing things in the name of ‘feminism’ but kinda missing the mark) it is interesting to see how this Hollywood heavyweight has ridden the tides of change throughout the last two decades and seen how the visibility of women is evolving in film.

Callie first mentions that she had no idea Thelma and Louise would have such an impact on society at the time.

“The timing of it was very fortunate because it fit into a larger narrative at the time of people realizing that women’s roles have been narrowly defined long enough. Certainly it was not the first realization of that, not by a long shot, but I mean there were several incidents that seemed to all come together at that time.”

When asked how Hollywood has changed for women since she won the Oscar in ’91, Callie says it is still pretty dismal within the Writers and Directors Guilds in terms of female numbers. But her solution is not to give up fighting and working hard for better representation.

“You know, one film at a time, I guess. I mean, I certainly think just the awareness is a good place to begin…  but it’s certainly not enough. Honestly, if I knew how to get it to change, I would have changed it for myself and a lot of other people…I just know that for myself and the women I know that are working, you just have to keep slogging away.”

Callie says ‘Nashville’ is a show about very strong women on purpose, and she is doing her part to change Hollywood by hiring more women.

“We have a lot of women on the writing staff and a number of female directors. The sensibility is very much a reality driven plank.”


Claire Stanford from Salon.com called ‘Nashville’ the most feminist show on TV in an article in May 2013.

“As characters, Rayna and Juliette are strong women, still rare on television, but not impossible to find. As a show, though, Nashville—in its unapologetically pure focus on female characters, its self-aware examination of the struggles of female artists, and its critique of male-dominated industries—is one of the most feminist television shows on television.” she said.

Both the networks that Callie has to report to have female heads so she is lucky in that sense, they get where she is coming from. But not all writers and directors are as lucky. So what else do they have to depend on to get seen and heard by the industry execs?

“I think as long as we keep the stories real and compelling, they are happy to let us tell the stories we want to tell. They just want to tell stories that are compelling and emotional,  keep people coming back.”

On that note, here is her advice for young women who want to write, direct, produce, act and work in Hollywood:

“Start writing and don’t stop. At some point you have to make your own luck. You have to get out there and push and make it happen just like the guys do. Nobody is getting handed jobs on silver platters. Even the most successful writers and directors are fighting for it every day. Fewer movies than ever are getting made and it’s incredibly competitive. And you just have to know going into it that it’s going to be hard.”

Before her film career, Callie worked on music videos which she says were filled with sexism and portrayals for women as objects. The turning point to her leaving that world was when a female dancer came up to her one day on set and said she was leaving because she was sick of being treated like a sex object. Since then, Callie has never looked back and knows the importance of women created opportunities for other women in Hollywood.

So if you are going into the industry for the fame or money, and are banking on it being easy then turn the other way. We love Callie’s attitude toward hard work, and it’s a great trait that we need to pass on to future generations, regardless of the state of gender equality.




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