Thursday, June 20, 2024

Time’s Up Is A Movement of Convenience, Not Real Change

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The Time’s Up movement has shot to the top of Hollywood discourse since its rise to prominence at the 2018 Golden Globes. Starting out as an informal outgrowth of the MeToo movement, Time’s Up has grown into a full-blown activist organization. In addition to coordinating the protest efforts at prominent award shows, Time’s Up has a $20 million legal defense fund that helps “address the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.”  But despite their broad mission statement, they don’t represent all women in the workplace. And, it turns out, they don’t even represent all actresses in Hollywood.

Wigging Out

Image via United Artists

“Wigging” is probably the biggest Hollywood controversy that you haven’t heard of. It’s the term used for the disgustingly common practice of putting a male stuntman in drag to film an action sequence for a female actress. The reasoning for it is that stuntwomen aren’t as skilled or as safe as their male counterparts, even when the stuntwomen are qualified to do the stunt. Its one of the industry’s best-kept examples of gender discrimination, and the it seems the four stunt organizations (all run by men) would have liked to keep it that way. But a snag in the form of stuntwoman Deven MacNair (Green Lantern, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).

When the stunt coordinator on 2016’s The Domestics, Nick Gillard, decided a stunt was too dangerous for the experienced MacNair and instead decided to “wig,” MacNair filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

MacNair’s complaint came amid other claims by stuntwomen that over two-thirds of them had faces sexual harassment on the job. That same poll revealed that 40% of stuntwomen had dealt with wigging, and 35% had seen nonwhite stuntpeople made up to look like POC. Finally, a full quarter of the polled stunt performers felt that they had been made uncomfortable or unsafe while working.

Further complications arose in 2017, when stuntwoman SJ Harris was killed filming a motorcycle stunt for Deadpool 2. Harris, the first ever African-American female professional road racer, was a rookie stunt driver who was chosen for sharing an ethnicity with the character Domino. Also like Domino, Harris did not wear a helmet. For a motorcycle stunt.

Reaching for Help

It has been 2 years since MacNair’s complaint and it’s not been an easy time for her. She’s faced death threats, industry pressure, and plain dismissal from the men in her union and Gillard himself. Stuntmen have gone so far as to say her complaint, and the SAG probe it led to, has sent their industry into chaos, or may kill it altogether. But MacNair’s female colleagues, like Danielle Reierson (Nightmare Code) have stuck by her. Deadline also uncovered that some of the biggest stunt coordinators, who have been in denial about wigging for months, had in fact wigged themselves for some work. 

On Monday, SAG closed their inquiry. While they concluded that “wigging a male stunt performer to double for a female performer is not acceptable and that this should not happen again,” they took no action to punish Gillard or MGM for their discriminatory actions.

Now is the time for the heroic, pro-woman coalition of actresses to swoop in and help change the culture of Hollywood as they had with Weinstein or Kevin Spacey. Well, it didn’t quite happen like that.

Outside the Scope

MacNair is still fighting what some have called a “one woman war,” and the recent success of Time’s Up made them an obvious life raft for her. But when she reached out to them, they gave her a curt, professional “go away.”

MacNair was told by Time’s Up and National Women’s Law Center program coordinator Caitlyn Lowell that they were “unable to offer legal assistance as the matter you contacted us about is outside of the scope of our work.” They were ” sorry you are dealing with a difficult situation in your life” and wished her luck, but made sure to emphasize that this was not legal advice.While MacNair luckily already has a lawyer and is undeterred, her brushing off by Time’s Up is incredibly worrying.

Progression For Me, But Not For Thee

The MeToo movement and Time’s Up have done some good work, and that’s without question. But one wonders how far they’re actually willing to go to defend anyone but their own. Their own being the wealthy women already in front of the cameras, the movie stars who have made an attempt to recognize their privilege but have only formed a movement based in selfishness. No woman should deal with gender disparity or sexual assault in the workplace, not just the women who star in our films. The Time’s Up movement’s dismissal of the women that these women rely on, the “little people” of Hollywood, is the sort of tone-deafness that can undermine a whole movement. Going into the Oscars, we’re going to see a lot of posturing from Hollywood on how far they’ve come and the work they need to do. But until we see support for stuntwomen, and Devan MacNair in particular…it’s all going to ring hollow.

Image courtesy of NBC/Universal

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