THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Julie Taymor to direct Gloria Steinem biopic, Harvey Weinstein fired in wake of sexual abuse allegations, James Cameron still doesn’t get ‘Wonder Woman’

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Julie Taymor appears on the set of "Across the Universe." Revolution Studios photo

Julie Taymor appears on the set of “Across the Universe.” Revolution Studios photo

Award-winning stage and screen director Julie Taymor will helm a coming-of-age biopic of feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, Deadline Hollywood reports.

Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl will pen the script, based on Steinem’s bestselling memoir “My Life on the Road.” The June Pictures project reportedly will focus on Steinem’s surprising encounters along the road that helped shaped the icon.

Taymor directed “Frida,” “Across the Universe” and “Titus” for the screen and Disney’s “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. She became the first woman to win the Tony Award for directing a musical with “The Lion King.”

June Pictures’ Andrew Duncan and Alex Saks will produce with Taymor and Lynn Hendee. Steinem and Amy Richards will be executive producers, according to Deadline.

Harvey Weinstein, left, smiles for a photo with "The Imitation Game" stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley at the film's 2014 New York premiere. Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company Sunday following a New York Times expose last week that detailed decades of sexual abuse allegations made against the Oscar-winning producer. Photo via The Weinstein Company Facebook

Harvey Weinstein, left, smiles for a photo with “The Imitation Game” stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley at the film’s 2014 New York premiere. Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company Sunday following a New York Times expose last week that detailed decades of sexual abuse allegations made against the Oscar-winning producer. Photo via The Weinstein Company Facebook

Harvey Weinstein fired in wake of sexual abuse allegations

Harvey Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company Sunday following an expose in The New York Times last week that detailed decades of sexual abuse allegations made against the Oscar-winning producer by actresses, including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, and employees.

In a statement, the company’s board of directors announced his termination Sunday night, reports the Associated Press.

“In light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days, the directors of The Weinstein Company — Robert Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar — have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately,” the company’s board said in a statement on Sunday night.

Weinstein had taken an indefinite leave of absence following an explosive The New York Times’ report detailing allegations of sexual harassment. The board on Friday endorsed that decision and announced an investigation into the allegations, saying it would determine the co-chairman’s future with the company.

But The Weinstein Company board, which includes Weinstein’s brother, Bob, took the additional step Sunday of firing its primary operator, public face and studio chief. Under his leadership, the AP notes that The Weinstein Company has been a dominant force at the Oscars, including the rare feat of winning back-to-back best picture Academy Awards with “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”

The New York Times article chronicles sexual harassment settlements Weinstein made with Judd and McGowan as well as former employees at both his eponymous company and his previous film company, Miramax. Over the years and continents women in Weinstein’s employ – or hoping to be in one of his acclaimed films – said in NYT interviews that they encountered a common narrative: They reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different ideas, including appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself.

In reaction to Thursday’s report, many in Hollywood called Weinstein’s behavior “an open secret.” Hopefully, times are changing where this kind of treatment of women is no longer tolerated. But it’s hard to be too optimistic: As the AP notes, Weinstein has only seen his bad behavior threaten his career after his status already has been diminished because of money shortages, disappointing box-office returns and executive departures.

Gal Gadot stars in "Wonder Woman." Warner Bros. photo

Gal Gadot stars in “Wonder Woman.” Warner Bros. photo

James Cameron still doesn’t get ‘Wonder Woman’

Despite the best efforts to Patty Jenkins and seemingly all of Twitter, James Cameron still doesn’t get “Wonder Woman” or feminism, which isn’t really surprising but remains maddening.

As previously reported, Cameron recently set off a firestorm on Twitter in an interview with The Guardian by reducing Wonder Woman and her depiction in Jenkins’ record-setting film to “an objectified icon” that he considers “a step backwards” from his female character of Sarah Connor.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the “Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” filmmaker said he stands by his comments about “Wonder Woman,” mostly because the woman who played her, Gal Gadot, is apparently too beautiful to be groundbreaking.

“I mean, she was Miss Israel, and she was wearing a kind of bustier costume that was very form-fitting. She’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. To me, that’s not breaking ground. They had Raquel Welch doing stuff like that in the ’60s. It was all in a context of talking about why Sarah Connor — what Linda created in 1991 — was, if not ahead of its time, at least a breakthrough in its time. I don’t think it was really ahead of its time because we’re still not [giving women these types of roles],” Cameron said in the new interview.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters reiterated part of Jenkins’ brilliant response to his original comments, in which she noted that women don’t always have to be “hard, troubled and tough to be strong,” but Cameron just kept on with his notion that he knows better what a “strong woman” should be than, you know, women.

“Linda looked great. She just wasn’t treated as a sex object. There was nothing sexual about her character. It was about angst, it was about will, it was about determination. She was crazy, she was complicated. … She wasn’t there to be liked or ogled, but she was central, and the audience loved her by the end of the film,” Cameron continued.

“So as much as I applaud Patty directing the film and Hollywood, uh, ‘letting’ a woman direct a major action franchise, I didn’t think there was anything groundbreaking in Wonder Woman. I thought it was a good film. Period. I was certainly shocked that [my comment] was a controversial statement. It was pretty obvious in my mind. I just think Hollywood doesn’t get it about women in commercial franchises. Drama, they’ve got that cracked, but the second they start to make a big commercial action film, they think they have to appeal to 18-year-old males or 14-year-old males, whatever it is. Look, it was probably a little bit of a simplistic remark on my part, and I’m not walking it back, but I will add a little detail to it, which is: I like the fact that, sexually, she had the upper hand with the male character, which I thought was fun.”

I’ve already written in detail here about what Cameron’s original comments on “Wonder Woman” reveal about Hollywood’s attitude toward “strong women” characters: If a female character is “strong,” that’s all she gets to be, goes this often-held notion that Cameron espouses. She can be troubled, tough or hard-bitten, but only because those traits are proofs of her strength.

She especially doesn’t get to be beautiful or sexy while being “strong,” because women are only really “strong” in the Hollywood vernacular if they are “strong” by men’s standards. If they can fight like a man and beat up bad guys and act enough like one of the guys, then they can be “strong.” But in the cinematic “strongbox,” for a woman to be “strong,” she has to utterly reject femininity and embrace masculinity.

But Cameron’s follow-up comments reveal that he doesn’t understand that there is a difference between a woman being sexy and being sexualized. As portrayed by Jenkins, Wonder Woman is sexy, beautiful, feminine, tough, wise, naïve, principled, determined and, yes, strong. But she is not put on display for the titillation of a male gaze. First of all, she’s Wonder Woman, so she’s outfitted to accurately represent on screen one of the most influential female icons of the 20th and 21st centuries. But she’s also beautiful and sexy because women can be that and save the world, too.

This is why we so desperately need more women filmmakers.

-BAM

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