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Bret Easton Ellis Doesn't Think Too Highly of Female Directors

Bret-easton-ellis Perhaps I'm just getting bitter and/or more nonchalant in my old age, but when Bret Easton Ellis says stuff like he doesn't think, in general, that women can direct, I don't get angry. I just kind of shrug and tell him to quit talking and go write some messed up book for me to read kthanxbi.

Ellis' books are notoriously disturbing examinations of aspects of upper class American society. Four of his six books have been made into movies that had to have their violence heavily pared down to come into existence. 

Of Ellis' books, I've only read Glamorama, which was really fucked up, but my husband tells me that American Psycho was even crazier. However, I've seen the film adaptations of Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and Rules of Attraction, and they're all some of my favorite movies. I like the perversion of some of the most celebrated and envied facets of American society: the coke-fueled, ultra-capitalist yuppies of 1980s Wall Street and the too-privileged-to-fail babies of an Ivy-League-ish college. Ellis' depiction of them as secretly soulless and psychotic was particularly interesting since that was his upbringing.

However, despite American Psycho being expertly directed by Mary Harron, Ellis is still pretty convinced that women just can't direct and that good films require "the male gaze." An interview that Easton Ellis recently gave to Movieline touches on this opinion of his.

There’s something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze.

What would that be?
We’re watching, and we’re aroused by looking, whereas I don’t think women respond that way to films, just because of how they’re built.

You don’t think they have an overt level of arousal?
[They have one] that’s not so stimulated by the visual. I think, to a degree, all the women I named aren’t particularly visual directors. You could argue that Lost in Translation is beautiful, but is that [cinematographer Lance Acord]? I don’t know. Regardless of the business aspect of things, is there a reason that there isn’t a female Hitchcock or a female Scorsese or a female Spielberg? I don’t know. I think it’s a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality [toward] the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors. But I have to get over it, you’re right, because so far this year, two of my favorite movies were made by women, Fish Tank and The Runaways. I’ve got to start rethinking that, although I have to say that a lot of the big studio movies I saw last year that were directed by women were far worse than the sh***y big-budget studio movies that were directed by men.

Now, anyone who spends any time examining things like gender knows that trying to attach essential qualities to any gender identity, male, female, or otherwise, is just kind of foolish. There are plenty of traditionally female qualities that I have, but there are also plenty of traditionally male qualities that I find in myself. Gender is, really, a social construct. I'm not saying it's good or bad, but aside from physical differences, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who is all female or all male. Yin and yang and all of that. Anyway, I'm veering off into a territory that I'm not totally educated enough in.

Ellis, I think, sort of makes my point for me when he acknowledges that Mary Harron, Andrea Arnold, Kathryn Bigelow, and Sofia Coppola often direct films that are appreciated by serious film aficionados, male and female, but that many female directors do stuff like The Proposal: fluffy, someday-my-prince-will-come nonsense aka "chick flicks" that are generally pretty terrible but are a sure bet when it comes to snagging female movie dollars. It's not that women can't direct good films, they just don't and it's most likely because movies are a business and the financial backers (aka the ultimate decision makers) aren't always willing to take risks on weird female-directed movies when they can just make a billion dollars cranking out the same formulaic crap. And, obviously, there are plenty of male-centric formulaic shitty movies (and way more of them than female-centric ones, I would bet), but they're balanced, I guess, by the interesting stuff that male directors get to produce all the time.

In any case, neither Ellis nor I are filmmakers. And while we're both allowed to have opinions on movies, and gender, it might be best if we both got busy doing stuff that we actually know how to do. Like I said: go write some shit, Bret, and you and I can hash out whether or not my vagina prevents me from seeing over champagne and coke someday, alright? Right now, I have to go return some videotapes.


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I can't stand his work or his attitude. It's almost nice he's an ass; It's hard for me to imagine a sweetie pie behind the misogynist writing of Mr. Gen X (or does that title belong to Douglas Copeland?). The supposed satire of his disgusting stories that keep audiences at bay "It's just a clever joke, people," is a ginormous problem for me. Arggggh!

Snarky Amber

I think there's something about the way Bret Easton Ellis is built that makes him a total douchebag, but notice how I didn't generalize an entire gender. What's funny is that he's operating on complete pseudoscience, since studies have actually confirmed that women are similarly aroused by, say, pornography, as men are.


Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own, Monster, The Hurt Locker. The end.

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