Committee Notes: Women In Film

One of the committees on which Representative Sugarbaker is seated has been investigating the treatment of women in film and on television. In addition to the committee having to view several main-stream movies and telefilms, several industry reprensentatives and well-known actresses testified before committee. Recorded below are excerpts from some of their testimonials, as well as the Congresswoman's empassioned speech before the House in response.


DEIDRE HALL: It seems to me that in films today, if a man gets killed, it's in the line of duty. If a woman gets killed, it's in her underwear.

LONI ANDERSON: I've been asked to play a topless secretary, topless doctor, topless judge, well, you get the picture; the standard role models we see everyday in our society.

JOAN VAN ARK: I've played a woman who's stalked, a woman who's raped, a woman who's kidnapped, car-jacked, hi-jacked, and sky-jacked, and quite frankly, I'm exhausted.

STEFANIE POWERS: Recently I was asked to portray a 60-year old mother of an actor who played my lover three years ago. Apparently I'm getting older, and he's getting better.

ELIZABETH ASHLEY: If you are between the ages of 48 and death, it kind of boils down to mutant-monster-grandmothers who eat the neighborhood young, BUT -- good parts like that are extremely rare.

SHIRLEY JONES: I've played hundreds of decent caring women of the years, but it took the role of an exploited, used, and abused prostitute in Elmer Gantry to win me an Oscar. I guess you might say nice girls finish last.

MARILYN CHAMBERS: I've been blackballed from the mainstream film industry, which I find very violent, because I was a porn star. Under the current rating system, it's more socially acceptable to cut off a woman's breast than it is to kiss it.

RITA MORENO: Recently I saw a director about getting a role in a movie, and to my amazement, he offered me the part of a Mexican whorehouse madam. In one sentence, that man canceled an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy, and two Emmys. I guess some things never change.

MARILYN MCCOO: Personally, I think feature films are becoming a little scary when there's more women in handcuffs than criminals.

ROSEANNE: I always notice at the end of those Black Stallion and Flipper movies they have a little card that says "No animals were hurt or exploited making of this film." I guess they don't have one of those cards for women.

CAROL BURNETT: I personally prefer the kind of movies where dog collars are worn by dogs -- not women, and a man might break your heart, but never your neck.

BRETT BUTLER: As far as I know, over the last fifty years, the only woman in my industry who's been allowed to be consistently independent, adventurous, and unmolested is.... Lassie -- and they used all boy dogs to play that part!

STUDIO EXECUTIVE RAYMOND: I think I can speak for all the networks and studios represented here today when I say that we share your concern for how women are portrayed in our industry. It is, however, a concern which must always be tempered by a healthy respect for freedom of artistic expression.


"Let me just say that after all the films that I have seen this week, I view my six-year old daughter's decision to become an actress with great fear in my heart. In fact, I cannot think of a more dangerous occupation for a woman.

"Now I know there's a lot of you big muchy-muchs from Hollywood here today, and you all say you're concerned about that -- what do you call it -- freedom of artistic expression. Well, if that's so, let me just say, we've already seen hundreds of thousands of women being raped on film. We've also seen them be kidnapped, tortured, terrorized, shackled, stalked, stabbed, mutilated and murdered. We know what that looks like. You've made that movie. It's been artistically expressed, OK?

"Now let's move on and express something else. How about; women who are friends, women who have adventures, women who wear clothes, women who aren't in jeopardy, women who are --in fact-- doing just fine.

"Now I know what you're gonna say. You're gonna say you already have too much money invested in projects where women are the victims. Well, I have a suggestion for you. Why don't you all get together, pool your resources, and make one big final blowout movie, y'know. I mean, throw everything you've got in it. You can call it Stab Me, Rape Me, Kill Me, or maybe even Stab Me, Rape Me, Kill Me, Eat Me.

"But at some point it has to stop. Because it's just plain wrong, and it's hurting your wives, your girlfriends, your mothers, sisters, daughters. And if you say it can't be proven it's hurting them, let me just say, it's not helping, OK? It can't be a good thing. And if you say it's not your job to help, it's your job to make money, let me also say that the number one movie in America is Forrest Gump.

"Now, to all of you ladies who take these roles, I can only say, I may be the dumbest woman in Congress, but I know now that I'm not the dumbest woman in America. Because the dumbest woman in America is one who can be talked into playing a woman who enjoys being raped.

"Everyone says that there isn't a way to stop these sleazy roles, but I have a solution. STOP TAKING THEM. When the studios can't find any women to be in these movies, there won't be anymore of these movies.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see a budding young actress who has evidently landed one of the best female parts around -- she plays a tree."

As touched on in our Cover Story, television Writer/Executive Producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, watched the televised hearings and had some moving comments.

LINDA BLOODWORTH-THOMASON: There are hundreds of women who are willing to take these parts -- these parts that demean and degrade, and gratuitously exploit women and humiliate them. And they're willing to take them, and they come out and say, "It's a feminist choice -- y'know being a feminist is about choice." It's not just about choice. It's about responsible choice. This is not about feminism, this is not about women's rights, it's about human rights. It's about every human being's right not to be humiliated, exploited, gratuitously murdered, and demeaned before millions of people.

My fantasy is that it would be like a Jerry Lewis telethon, and the switchboards would light up, and women would say 'We're mad as heck and not gonna take it anymore! I have no illusions about that happening, but I do think that the greatest thing next to that would be to get women talking on Monday morning in their offices and wherever women gather. To get them talking about it and saying, "Y'know, that's right. I saw such-and-such a movie, and I was offended by it" -- and to start taking action.