The 50 smartest people in Hollywood: Where are the women?

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The folks at Entertainment
Weekly
like their lists. And their latest list is a big one;
so big that it warrants the cover of the print version. Declaring that
“It’s not about power anymore,” EW has presented us with
The 50 Smartest
People in Hollywood
.”
And guess what? Men are a lot smarter than women. Or, at least, there
are a lot more smart men than women in Hollywood. Now, I’m not confident
that I counted correctly because, you know, math is hard, but here are the numbers:
There’s exactly one woman (10 percent) in the top 10, two (8 percent) in the top 25 and 13 (26 percent)
in the entire 50.

Meryl
Streep
, at
No. 6, is the smartest woman in Hollywood — because she’s managed
to have a vibrant career after age 50.

The other 12 women are: 15.
Amy Pascal
, 26. Stacey Snider, 30. Jodie Foster, 31. Kathleen Kennedy, 32.

Thelma Schoonmaker, 33. Angelina Jolie, 38. Diablo Cody, 39. Mary
Zophres
, 43. Beth Swofford, 45. Cate Blanchett, 47. Amy Powell and 49. Sarah Polley. (You can find the full list with
explanations beginning here.)

Now, I’m not complaining about
the women they selected (except for maybe Angelina Jolie and possibly
Diablo Cody). We certainly know that Jodie Foster is brainy.

And Cate Blanchett has always
struck me as intelligent.

But only 13 women? And overwhelmingly
weighted in the bottom half? I’m sure the standard position is that
there are so many more men than women in Hollywood, so this is just
a by-product of those numbers. But I don’t buy it. Because this list
is ostensibly about “smart,” not about powerful. And the fact that
Hollywood is still so male-dominated means that the women who do succeed
are probably smarter and more tenacious than the majority of men.

All of which begs the question:
What constitutes “smart” according to the folks at EW? In
their words,

“’Smart’ could mean many
things. It encompasses books smarts and street smarts, financial genius
and emotional intelligence. We weren’t interested in IQ. What mattered
was the originality of each person’s thinking and the reach of their
ideas beyond the borders of their own careers.”

Or, as a reader on the site
commented, “So, by ‘smart,’
they don’t actually mean anything at all to do with being smart.”

In other words, “smart”
— rather than meaning intelligent — is just another way of saying successful
and influential. How innovative. And then there’s the logic. Judd
Apatow
comes in at number 1 because “he changed the whole funny
business” with his everyman-fantasy
movies
, Knocked
Up
and Superbad. But Amy Pascal, who greenlit Superbad ,

came in at 15, and Donna Langley, who greenlit Knocked Up, didn’t
make the list. And Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and
Will Smith
are smarter than all the women in Hollywood. Uh-huh.

But I will not merely rage
against the injustice. I’ll throw out a few of the many women who could
easily have been included among the top 50.

1. Christine Vachon (Producer)

By anyone’s standards, Christine
Vachon is a mover and shaker in Hollywood. She (along with her production company Killer Films) has been the driving force behind
an enormous number of the interesting, and often financially successful,
independent movies produced during the past 10 years or so. And she
meets the criteria of being currently influential; at last count, Christine Vachon had a zillion projects
announced, in pre-production, in production or in theaters right now.

2. Kasi Lemmons
(Actor, Director)

Kasi Lemmons directed what
may be the best movie of 2007, Talk to Me
— and if she does not get an Oscar nod, I’m going to become a
full-fledged conspiracy theorist. While I’m neither derogating movies
made for a female audience, nor asserting that Lemmons is the first
to break the mold, she has unquestionably demonstrated that women can
direct primarily male casts and make brilliant movies for wide audiences.

3. Reese Witherspoon (Actor)

Will Smith was declared the
fifth-smartest person in Hollywood for making good choices, doggedly
pursuing his dreams and becoming an old-fashioned movie star. Reese
Witherspoon has made excellent movie choices (Election, Walk
the Line
), won the Best Actress Oscar in 2005 and generally makes
movies with weak scripts (Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama)
much better than they should be. She is the highest paid actress in Hollywood, and she has her own
production company, Type A Films.

4. Barbara Kopple
(director)

Michael Moore, who came
in at 27, makes award-winning, commercially successful documentaries
(Bowling for Columbine, Sicko) in which he is the star.
Barbara Kopple makes award-winning, commercially successful (although
not to the same degree as Michael Moore’s) documentaries (Harlan
County USA
, Shut Up and Sing) in which her subjects are the
stars. The latter seems smarter to me.

5. Salma Hayek
(actor, producer)

Salma Hayek has become a major
player in the world of independent film production. Her production company, Ventanazul, is currently negotiating five English-language
movies, and Hayek has greenlight power. She describes Ventanazul’s
niche as follows:

"I think we are the only
company right now whose sole mission is to specialize in two things:
1) appealing to the Latin market and 2) taking a Latin story or a Latin
talent and appealing to the global market."

And these five are only a fraction
of the women who could easily be considered among the 50 smartest in
Hollywood. Who would you include? (Note that this is exclusively a Hollywood
and not a television list.) And what do you think of EW‘s list?

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