ICYMI, Elizabeth Banks gave a speech on Tuesday at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, where she was being honored with the Crystal Award for excellence in features. Unfortunately, the impassioned actress and director made a miscalculation concerning Steven Spielberg that promptly got her dragged on Twitter.
During her speech, Banks called out Hollywood’s boys’ club culture, revealing, “The first agent I ever met in this industry told me to get a boob job. I was so grateful that I didn’t have enough money at the time to follow his advice. I also did not sign.”
If we want representation in film to change, she explained, “co-opting men and boys into that process is the only way that progress is going to happen.”
Here’s where things went off the rails a bit.
In emphasizing to the audience how important it is to take children to movies with female leads, Banks took industry heavy hitter Spielberg to task. “I went to Indiana Jones and Jaws and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he’s never made a movie with a female lead,” Banks said. “Sorry, Steven. I don’t mean to call your ass out, but it’s true.”
When actress Shari Belafonte tried to tell Banks from the audience that Spielberg directed the iconic 1985 film The Color Purple, Banks basically skimmed over her comment and continued discussing the importance of women having agency on TV and in film.
Well, it didn’t take long for Twitter to sink its teeth into Banks’ oversight. Comment after comment dragged the actress/director for forgetting a film so important to black women and black Southern culture in general.
Black women are NEVER part of the conversation when White actresses or white women writers talk about women representation in Hollywood. https://t.co/oTRIDhOseM
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) June 15, 2017
In response, Banks issued a tweet of her own, this time apologizing for both failing to recognize The Color Purple and for seeming to dismiss Belafonte.
— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) June 15, 2017
Obviously, everyone who was upset by the omission made an excellent point. The Color Purple was a hugely impactful film, and leaving it out in any context is a grievous mistake.
Therein lies the danger of speaking in such hyperbolic terms. While Banks was clearly inaccurate in stating that Spielberg had never directed a movie with a female lead, she did have a point. She simply negated it by using the word “never.”
Yes, Spielberg has The Color Purple to his credit. He can also claim The Sugarland Express starring Goldie Hawn, from 1974, and The BFG in 2016 (although the little girl technically shared the lead with the eponymous male BFG, or Big Friendly Giant).
But Banks wasn’t wrong to call out Spielberg, who is largely considered one of the most influential voices in the film industry. In a career spanning many decades and even more credits, Spielberg should absolutely have more than three female-led films under his directorial belt.
The same goes for other Hollywood male creative executives. In scrutinizing the canons of these powerful men in the industry, Banks is highlighting the alarming lack of representation for all women.