Natalie Dormer Says She Is Optimistic About Progress Toward Gender Parity On Screen

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If there’s one actress who we know has no problem advocating feminism, calling it like it is, and staying true to what she stands for, it’s British star Natalie Dormer. The ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Mockingjay’ favorite is gearing up for the 6th season of HBO’s hit drama, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, she talks about her latest projects outside of the cult hits she is part of, and her views on gender equality in the film industry.

To really understand just how unequal things are for women in Hollywood, all we need to do is glance at a few numbers. A recently released report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, titled ‘Celluloid Ceiling’, shows that the number of films directed by women today is exactly the same as it was in 1998. In other words, the needle has not moved forward much. Among the top 250 domestic grossing films, women filled just 19 percent of the following pivotal movie-making jobs: director, writer, executive producer, editor and cinematographer.

Martha Lauzen, the executive director of the study says the numbers don’t surprise her because when she looks at the percentage of female directors since 2001, it has fluctuated by a few points each year but it has never really progressed in a dramatic way.

“The percentage of women in these various roles will increase a couple of percentage points one year and decrease a couple the next–we tend to stay in a pretty narrow range. But it is a surprise that this is where we are in 2016, especially given all the public dialogue about this issue recently,” she said.

Martha is right, there has been a huge push for awareness over the past year in terms of wage disparity, unequal representation of women in key roles such as director, producer and writer, as well as the many discussions about the need for greater female characters on screen that don’t relegate women to sidelined roles such as secretary, sidekick, bimbo, wife, etc. Each person in the industry has their own perspective on this, and Natalie has definitely formed an opinion based on her own experience.

She has made a name for herself as a virtuoso character actor in a corset, after portraying Margaery Tyrell in GOT, Anne Boleyn in ‘The Tudors’, and Victoria in ‘Casanova’ (her big break), and Seymour Worsley in ‘The Scandalous Lady W’, but there is nothing that will hold her back either physically or culturally when it comes to addressing the lack of gender parity in Hollywood.

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But with the knowledge that equality has not yet been reached for women, she feels it is also important to acknowledge where progress is being made in the hope that it will encourage more.

“I think the tide is turning. I think that finally the money men are understanding that 50 percent of the population is female, and it’s only right that we have more three-dimensional, fleshed out, contradictory female characters,” she said.

Like many have acknowledged before, TV as well as digital streaming platforms have seen a surge of female driven and focused content in a way that has outshone film.

“Television like ‘Game of Thrones’, which I’m very proud to be a part of, has led the way in giving cinema a good lesson, which is that it needs to catch up in the equality stakes,” said Natalie.

At the end of 2015, an important film detailing the plight of women’s fight for equality was released. ‘Suffragette’ came at a poignant time in our modern history where affinity for feminism is dubious at best, yet the facts tell us we still have a long way to go.

For Natalie, that reminder is very real and serves as a great launch pad to move forward.

“The first talking movie was in 1927, you know? In 1927 not every single woman in my country, in Britain, had the vote. You have to look at these things in context,” she said. While we think it is high time we had equality in film, given that 1927 was 89 years ago, Natalie has a different perspective on how to approach the way we see inequality.

“If we haven’t even had the vote in a hundred years, let’s just slow down about being negative about cinema. Let’s see that it’s an evolution and that it’s coming. People have got the message. It’s coming. So let’s lean on the positive,” she said.

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One of the biggest barriers for more female-driven blockbuster films was the idea that women couldn’t drive box office sales the way men could. But with the uber success of ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise (biggest selling films in 2013 and 2014) and now ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ rated as the third highest grossing film of all time just behind ‘Avatar’ and Titanic’ which is brilliant considering it was led by a female character, there is literally no way that studios can call this any sort of a fluke.

“Katniss Everdeen, one of the highest-grossing movie franchises of the last hundred years, proves that female heroines can be commercially viable for massive blockbusters,” said Natalie, and she is not alone in that view.

While it is important to talk about equality in the film industry, given that it is highly influential and has the power to encourage or discourage young women to make certain decisions in their lives depending on what they see on screen, equality has to happen in all areas of society.

“Yes, there needs to be more female directors making movies. And yes, there needs to be more female writers,” she said. “But there needs to be more female CEOs. There needs to be more female brain surgeons. This isn’t just an industry issue. This is a world issue,” emphasized Natalie.

We do believe change is happening, albeit very slow in some areas. But we also agree with Natalie that it is important to focus on and celebrate the areas where women are making great strides to break down gender barriers. It’s something we love writing about the most!

‘Game of Thrones’ season 6 begins on HBO in April.

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