Gendered Inspirations

The eternally fabulous Helen Mirren caused a stir at last night’s Empire Awards when she noted that director Sam Mendes cited only men when naming his inspirations. Mendes made a speech upon receiving his “Empire Inspiration” award (apparently that’s a thing) in which he discussed filmmakers who have inspired him through his career, but all the filmmakers he mentioned were male. When collecting her own award (for “Empire Legend” – apparently that’s also a thing), Mirren remarked:

I don’t want to unduly pick on Sam Mendes, but when he spoke about his inspirations earlier this evening, I’m afraid not a single one of the people he mentioned was a woman. Hopefully in five or 10 years, when Sam’s successor is collecting their Inspiration award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up. In the meantime, this one is for the girls.

In addition to being intrinsically awesome, I take it that this is proof that Helen Mirren tacitly endorses our Gendered Conference Campaign, right? RIGHT???

9 thoughts on “Gendered Inspirations

  1. I find it interesting that, first of all, she’s being misquoted all over the place. The Telegraph article has video of her speech, and even that article seems to have just made up the quotes based on watching the video once and trying to remember what she said.

    Secondly, this is being reported everywhere as Mirren “accuses,” “criticizes,” and “tong lashes” Sam Mendes, when it’s quite clear that she’s talking about the gradual process of achieving gender equality in the film industry and the fact that even though there’s been progress, she hopes to see more.

    It’s intensely frustrating to watch such an articulate, important message being turned into “isn’t Helen Mirren such a bitch to attack Sam Mendes?”.

  2. Incidentally, I went ahead and transcribed her speech for comparison. Sorry for any errors-I kept finding I was missing “you knows” and “ums,” because I use them so much in my own speech that I really don’t even hear them:

    “Thank you so much.Sit down, sit down.It’s nearly time for din-dins.

    Um… I feel more of a leg-over than a legend. I have been generally in my life more of a leg-over than a legend. um… I do still feel like the, you know, the little girl from Essex that I am really inside. Um, and, um, anyway, I’ve had an incredible night tonight watching all these amazing awards being given. Especially I love the short movie, the 60-second, wasn’t that amazing? I’ve never seen that before, and I thought that was so exciting, such a great idea and also it made me feel as though my whole career feels like one of those ‘bang’ [snaps fingers]. You know it’s gone [from?] sixty seconds.

    But actually, um, I’m probably almost the oldest person here, which is why I’m being given this legend award. Um… It’s been an amazing life in film. I’ve loved every minute. Um, well no, that’s not true. I haven’t love every minute; what a lie. Actually, getting up at four in the morning-it’s so horrible, and, you know, being out in the cold, and the wet, and the rain, and people have, people outside our industry have no idea what you guys do to make movies. They absolutely have no idea, which is why the critics bloody well piss me off, because you know, what do they know, honestly? Are there any critics here tonight? Stand up. [laughs]

    But anyway, um, yeah, so I’ve loved, I really have loved making movies. Especially night shooting. I love night shooting. It’s just, you know, you’re going to work and everyone else is coming home, and I love that, and you’re coming home when everyone else is going to work.

    Um, but um, I thank you to everyone in my whole career and I have to say, especially to craft services, because they have kept me going, and, and kept my performances up, the energy, the cappuccinos, you know, that come at the right moment, so thank you, craft services, very very much. [laughs]

    Um, now I just want to say quickly, it was great to hear Sam’s list of, you know, moments that he, that inspired him in the movies. I did, however, note that there was not one woman’s name there behind the camera.

    [audience grumbles] No, no, nothing against Sam, no, absolutely, because they were great, great moments he chose, and it’s, it is true, and when I first came into the film industry, you know, it was a really blokey world. You walked, it was liking walking into the locker room of a football club or something, you know. A film set was a very, very masculine environment.

    And, um, nowadays that’s really changed, and it’s fantastic seeing women and girls in the lighting department, in the cinematography, um, in the sound department, obviously in producing and writing, and I just hope I, I pray, I know that in five or ten years’ time, when the next Sam gets up and and makes his, or hopefully her, speech, there will be two, or three, or four, or five women’s, um, names there.

    Some great, um, there are some wonderful, wonderful female directors coming up. Many of them are British, and it’s so exciting to see that, so, go girls! Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you.”

  3. Wow – really interesting how different her actual comments are from what was reported in The Guardian (among others). I also loved that the Guardian’s headline was “Mirren vs. Mendes: Sexism Row”. Good grief.

  4. @magicalersatz-

    Yeah, it’s a rather breathtaking example of lazy journalism. I don’t have the time or patience to try to track down where the misquote originated, but the fact that it’s been picked up *everywhere* is fascinating.

  5. Just want to clarify-I don’t think *this* blog is breathtakingly lazy! The Guardian is generally seen to be a reliable source, so I probably would have trusted it, too, if I hadn’t felt inclined to watch the video this morning.

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