(True to form, it took me about two weeks to actually see it once it did open, but that's another story.)
I loved it. I really did. But for the first 10 minutes, I had to battle with myself, as I felt rising waves of anger with every opening shot of the Boston Globe newsroom, awash with men.
Awash. So few females in sight.
I had expected to feel rage when I watched this movie. I spent the year following the breaking of this story raging against the Church. I did not anticipate being consumed, in the first five minutes of the film, with rage about gender inequality in my chosen professional field.
I recognize that the movie probably showed a true-to-form depiction of what the BG newsroom looked like. But I was still angry. Because all the undergrad journalism courses I had taken were heavily female. Because my editorial staff, when I was editor-in-chief of my college paper, was heavily female. Because my master's journalism program in London was predominated by females. And yet - females were an endangered species in this newsroom.
I felt nauseous and furious and depressed. But I told myself, 'Knock it off. You've waited three months to see this movie about the greatest journalistic expose in the past 15 years about your own religion.' Getting pissed off in the opening credits would do nothing but make me hate the whole thing.
So I moved past it. And I loved it. And saw it twice.
Then I decided to watch (via Youtube) a chat held at the 92nd Street Y (in Manhattan), which had nearly all the main actors (with the exception of Rachel McAdams, who was otherwise engaged) and headed by Reel Pieces moderator Annette Insdorf.
I enjoyed it, for the most part.
Until the last three minutes, when Insdorf turned the discussion to McAdams and the role she played in the movie, and the importance of Sacha Pfeiffer (the BG journalist) in the investigation.
And I was horrified by what came out of their mouths.
Insdorf began: “There is an empathetic presence that her character Sacha brings to the material.”
First off, let me stop her right there. I was hoping for more from a female moderator. I was hoping that this moderator, by dint of being female, understood that these kinds of words sound awfully complimentary, but really just serve to frame women as caretakers whose chief responsibility is making sure that everyone’s feelings are being understood.
But it continued.
Insdorf: “It’s not just that these guys [yes, I’m aware that ‘guys’ is non-gender specific, but it sounds an awful lot like she’s talking about the men here] are so good at finally unraveling the details,” she said.
“There are so many moments in the film that she’s [McAdams, as Pfeiffer] talking to the survivors, for example, where a lot of the human cost of what’s at stake here was brought to the surface,” Insdorf added.
Really? That wasn’t my take on McAdam’s role in the film. She wasn’t in the movie as a plot device. Pfeiffer was a full member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team, and not because she was a “good listener” who was emphatic. She tracked down survivors, got details, and found out what really went on. She found one of the priests at the heart of the scandal, and interviewed him. She wasn’t a hand-holder. She wasn’t there accidentally. Give her some credit, FFS.
Also, I got more of a sense of what the victims were going through when I watched Mark Ruffalo, as Michael Rezendes, interview a former heroin addict who had survived abuse and a broken home, and when Ruffalo/Rezendes had a mini-breakdown in the office when publication of the story was delayed. That drove it home for me. Watching McAdams/Pfeiffer didn’t have that effect. It just made me understand how difficult it was was to get to the bottom of what happened.
The panel discussion then took a nosedive when the fantastically awkward (seriously - I never realized how verbally clumsy he is on his own) Michael Keaton had this gem:
Keaton: “And I have to add and I think I speak for all the guys here - it was just a great thing to show up and go, ‘I gotta go through my 15-min crush on Rachel McAdams and then get to work” [laughter from the crowd].
So, not only is Pfeiffer’s role in the investigation minimized, but McAdams’ work is reduced to ‘showing up and looking pretty.’ After 50+ minutes of listening to these men discuss their process, their inspiration, and their method,, this is what we get to hear about McAdam’s work. Sure, she wasn’t there, so she didn’t have that opportunity to discuss that in greater detail. But you would have at least hoped that someone on the team - or barring all else, the moderator - would have given her more props than that. Not so much.
You can see it for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkm82aeQ53E
It’s all the more infuriating when I think about the many humilities women in the journalism field suffer day in and out. I couldn’t get calls for a job interview until I changed my name from ‘Jaclyn’ to ‘Jax’. Even with that gender-neutral moniker, I’ve had instances when sources for a story pulled out of an interview after finding out I was female. I’ve had a job offer rescinded because the guy couldn’t get over me being a female (his words precisely). As a mining journalist, covering an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, I’ve had interviewees mock me, tell me ‘my pretty little head’ (I do most of my interviewing over the phone, so that’s not an observation on their part) can’t comprehend the nitty gritty of mining. And so on and so on and so forth. I don't think my experiences are unusual.
I get it. I get that women journos put up with an awful lot of shit (and I’m not even going to get into what we suffer online and on social media platforms).
But here’s the rub: we persevere. And we succeed. And then, we see a Pulitzer Prize-winning female journalist have her contributions to one of the most important, groundbreaking, earth-shattering stories in the past 20 years minimized so effortlessly by this panel, a panel which was comprised solely of the people who made the movie.
It’s an outrage. I saw it weeks ago, and I’m still furious.