Starring eight female leads, Ocean's 8 is already one of the summer's biggest films. In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, one of the movie's stars, Sarah Paulson, said women work better together, and calls out the narrative that they are always in competition. Just like the women of Ocean's 8 work seamlessly on screen, Paulson insisted that, contrary to the stereotype, the actors actually all worked well together off screen as well.
"I was raised with this idea that women don't work well together — not by my parents, but environmentally, societally and culturally, I was conditioned to think that women didn't get along," the actor wrote. This false notion, Paulson noted, was reinforced by movies and television. As she pointed out in her piece, female relationships are often depicted on-screen are competitive in nature, each fighting for a single job, man, or even dress. For the actor, it all boiled down to one message: "The only way to get a seat at the table is by elbowing other women out of the way."
The actor said that her experiences with Ryan Murphy, with whom she worked on shows like American Horror Story and The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, helped change her perspective. Not only was she often acting with other women on his sets, she was respected in a brand new way. "He creates an environment where my ideas are heard, and it's a true collaborative experience," Paulson said. "He relies on my attention to detail and my curiosity, and he nurtures that in me and in so many women."
Paulson continued, praising Murphy not only for creating good roles for women, but good roles for women over the age of 40. "Take American Horror Story. You've got Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange and Connie Britton, all over 40 and getting opportunities to continue to do work that heretofore had been unavailable to most women past a certain age," she said. Paulson expanded, saying that the show was a learning experience that taught her to question her own preconceptions of working with women. "Working on that show, I came up against my own prejudice, that narrative I had been holding without realizing it, about what it was like to work with women. To realize that I didn't have to succumb to this notion that I erroneously held onto has been not only liberating but incredibly stimulating."
Paulson is certainly not the only actress who has poked holes in the sexist narrative that women can't work well togeether. During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in June, Paulson's Ocean's 8 co-star Anne Hathaway said the cast really developed a bond while shooting. When Degeneres asked which of her castmates she was closest with, Hathaway replied, "All of them. We really are. It just was this huge lovefest, which was great cause there's that terrible rumor out there that women can't get along, and man, did we just murder that rumor. We just loved each other so much."
Reese Witherspoon, who currently stars in the female-powerhouse HBO drama Big Little Lies, has also been a huge proponent of female-driven work in Hollywood, championing female authors by turning their books into movies and TV shows, as she did with projects like Wild and Big Little Lies, and creating opportunities for other female actors, with her production company, Hello Sunshine.
She told Fast Company in March that one of her career role models was Dolly Parton, who "told me she did her best work partnering with women." Witherspoon said, "There’s real power in partnership, and I don’t think we have the ego thing as much."
As Paulson embraces working with women by taking on films like Ocean's 8, she's also hopefully motivating other young female actors to take note: don't be afraid to work with women. Surround yourself with smart, strong, and hard-working women, and, if the success of Ocean's 8 is any indication, the results might just change your career.