“Armor of Light” director Abigail Disney says it’s time for women to start asserting themselves in media.
The filmmaker, One of the Women’s Image Awards’ Women of the Year, says women need to work together and promote each other in order to overcome the challenges facing women in the entertainment industry and in society as a whole.
“It’s like the #OscarsSoWhite problem,” Disney said in an interview with TheWrap. “It’s endemic, it’s deep, and the responsibility for it ranges from the top to the bottom. Everyone has to take responsibility.”
Filmmaking is in Disney’s bloodline, if you didn’t know from her name: She is the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded the Walt Disney Company with his brother. “Armor of Light,” her directorial debut, is about an anti-abortion minister who begins to question whether it’s possible to be both pro-life and pro-gun.
We spoke to her about her film lineage, overcoming stereotypes, and making sure women are part of every aspect of media. (You can watch WIN’s video testimonials about her above.)
TheWrap: What was your reaction to finding out you were named one of the Women of the Year?
Disney: It’s crazy. I never really feel like I deserve something like that. It’s flattering, what can I say? It’s really, really flattering … Honestly, it’s a very profound thing for me to come back to what my family was doing after a long period of not doing that. So getting recognition in that area was particularly powerful for me. Because it means that I can do that. I kind of assumed that I shouldn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t. So it makes me feel incredibly seen and understood. And it’s exceptionally powerful for me.
Why is it important that women be recognized like this? What kind of effects could this have?
Whether you’re in the media or not, you’re affected by it. It’s in the air that we breathe. And it’s air that’s sort of inaccurate. And it certainly invisibilizes women. And when it doesn’t invisiblize us, it sexualizes us. Or objectifies us. … So I think it’s fundamental for our culture to rethink the way it understands women. I don’t think we’ll be a fully realized culture until women are fully realized in the media.
How can women in the entertainment industry make a change?
I think for a long time, women who had executive positions found it difficult to assert themselves around these issues when it was needed. And I understand that, because let’s face it, it’s really hard to assert yourself in a place where you’re not welcome. We need to just not roll over for it anymore. If you look at the Geena Davis website, she’ll tell you that crowd scenes are 78 percent male. That’s a pretty profound problem.
It’s like the #OscarsSoWhite problem. It’s endemic, it’s deep, and the responsibility for it ranges from the top to the bottom. Everyone has to take responsibility. First of all, women have to stick up for themselves. They have to bring women along behind them. And then we need men to also step up. We can’t fix this all by ourselves.
Why are people suddenly taking notice of this issue now when they haven’t before?
Some of us have been saying this for a really long time, and we looked like the stereotypical angry feminists. But something shifted and the culture got ready. I think another generation that’s very different, and maybe more open to it, has come up … I just think we just needed to travel a bit before we were really able to hear this message.
You mentioned #OscarsSoWhite earlier, how is that related to the challenges facing women in the industry?
They’re very related, and it’s not nothing that we’re hearing about these issues at the same time. This is about people who work in media completely shedding their preconceptions and all their intellectual and creative crutches. When you set out to do something creative, you have to do something new. And, let’s face it, we don’t do it all that often in Hollywood. We go back to the same well again and again for yet another comic book. It’s hard to imagine how you’re going to get a different result. These are very connected things, because these are two populations who have been forgotten in every piece of media. So we’re in this boat together … It’s #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale. Let’s face it. It’s as male as it is white.