As 2017 turns into 2018, we get to look at the biggest successes of the year and compartmentalize what actually is success and what should just be expected.
The three highest-grossing films of the year had women at the helm: Emma Watson in "Beauty and the Beast," Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman" and Daisy Ridley in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." This is quite wonderful, considering these movies were up against projected box office hits like "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II," "Justice League" and the most recent installment in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.
In other categories, such as comedies and limited release, women led there, too. "Girls Trip" was the highest-grossing comedy, and "Lady Bird" was the most popular film to play with limited release.
Subjectively, this all looks awesome. Women made many strides forward this year in film, television, music and general society. You could even say that 2017 was a year for women, despite how the sexual harassment allegations that occurred.
Out of NPR’s top 50 albums of the year, five of the top 10 albums belong to women. 2017 marked Kesha’s triumphant return to music after her four-year battle with producer Dr. Luke.
The #MeToo movement and attack on injustice in Hollywood, the political system and everyday life took greater momentum than ever expected.
Looking at all this progress and accomplishments, I should feel good and proud. But there is always an itch at the back of my mind, telling me this is not as good as it could be.
When I look deeper at the progress made, I cannot help but notice who is progressing forward and who is being left behind.
Out of the three actresses that led the year’s highest-grossing films, only one of them was not white. Even the success of having an Israeli woman lead the year’s best superhero movie comes with a bitter aftertaste when confronted with her problematic past.
To add insult to injury, The Envelope asked six actresses to come and discuss their leading roles from the year, then released a cover photo of the actresses. Every actress was white. Upon backlash toward the actresses who took part in the photoshoot, Jessica Chastain was asked how she could “pose for a photo like this and not feel absolutely mortified by the blatant exclusion?”
Chastain responded that she felt terrible about the shoot and had a hard time finding more than five women of color leads in the last year. While she may have recovered gracefully from the backlash, it still raises the glaring issue that this year of progress for what should have been all women was only one for white women.
We can commend the strides made to include more women of color in movies, like Kelly Marie Tran and Tiffany Haddish. We cannot stop there, though. Our first glimpse of 2018 so far looks promising, with movies like "Proud Mary" starring Taraji P. Henson, "Black Panther" with an all-star black-led cast, and Ava DuVernay’s "A Wrinkle in Time."
Success for women cannot be all-encompassing until it is intersectional. I believe we are headed that way, we just need to push harder.
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