What goals have you given up because the people currently achieving them don’t look like you?
When I was a kid, I dreamt of winning an Oscar. I was constantly writing screenplays in my head, acting out scenes in my bathroom mirror, and planning shots in my journal.
But I gave up on that dream halfway through film school because everyone told me I’d be miserable in Hollywood as a fat, queer woman.
In a way, they were right. Los Angeles is far from a fat friendly town, lesbians are still ostracized in the industry, and the recent exposure of horrific sexual harassment and assault is showing just how difficult it is for women to make it in Hollywood.
But was the law profession they encouraged me to pursue instead any better? I was one of two fat people in my law school class, one of about five lesbians in the whole school, and I witnessed abhorrent misogyny every day, from professors to judges.
And I’m white, cis, middle-class, and relatively able-bodied, meaning I have it easier than most.
The fact is, if you’re from a marginalized group, any career is going to be hard. You’re going to have to work, fight, do, and overcome ten times as much to get half the credit normative people get.
There’s no getting around it: it sucks being a marginalized voice in this country. There are consequences, overt and subtle, to speaking up and telling your story.
But that doesn’t mean you should be silent. Just because a dream is unrealistic, doesn’t mean it’s not valid and worthy of pursuit.
I’m working on a novel right now about a queer, fat woman who did what I couldn’t: kept going in the film industry despite everyone telling her she’d never make it.
It has me thinking about young me, about young you, about the young people around me who are just starting to be told they can’t be the doctors, astronauts, rock stars, presidents, or film directors they dream of becoming simply because they look a certain way.
It has me thinking about what dreams I’m still not pursuing because they feel unrealistic or impossible to achieve.
We are constantly told to “be realistic” but here’s the thing:
Your dreams aren’t supposed to be realistic.
That’s kind of the point of dreams.Your dreams aren't supposed to be realistic. That's the point of dreaming. Click To Tweet
Lately, I’ve started allowing myself to dream once again of making movies. I’ve signed up for courses at the UCLA and I’m putting together a crew for a new short film.
I’m not going to lie, I’m scared of the rough road ahead. It’s gotten better since I graduated film school in 2006, but the movie industry is still not the most welcoming place for fat, queer women.
This weekend, I watched the Golden Globes and was disheartened to hear that the only woman who has ever won an award for directing was Barbara Streisand, and that was in 1984.
I watched as Lady Bird won award after award, yet it’s creative powerhouse Greta Gerwig wasn’t even nominated for best director – no woman was.
I watched as Issa Rae and Daniel Kaluuya lost to white actors, even though their performances were unquestioningly more original and groundbreaking.
I searched the room for queers and found very few (Lena Waithe, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), and saw only one fat person in the audience (shout out to Chrissy Metz) even though I know there were more in the “cheap seats” (Keala Settle was there and never shown even though she was mentioned on stage).
It’s difficult to dream big when you don’t see people like you making it.
It’s hard to believe your story deserves to be told when the world is suppressing voices like yours.
I don’t have the answer to inequality, but I know that “being realistic” in your dreaming only helps maintain the status quo.
So I want to know: what’s the most unrealistic dream you have? And what can I do to help you make that dream a reality?
Maybe you want to fly into space. Maybe you want to climb Machu Picchu. Maybe you want to write and direct your own film.
Whatever your dream is, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know it.
With love and all kinds of unrealistic but amazingly wonderful optimism,
P.S. If you’re in the San Diego area and want to make movies with me, let me know! 🙂
This week’s resources:
- Shonda Rhimes (of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal fame) has a new online publication called Shondaland and they’re looking for writers, especially marginalized voices. They pay well too. Submit your idea for a piece at email@example.com.
- Other newspapers, magazines, and websites that pay writers can be found here.
- NBC has a program helping up and coming women directors – and it’s open for enrollment right now.
- The Women in Comedy Film Festival is accepting 1 to 5 minute short films. You can totally make a 1 to 5 minute film! Enter here.
- Feeling despair at how hard it is to accomplish your dreams? Read this.
Got a resource you want to share with others? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.