When I first saw the Hollywood Reporter piece on Melissa Rosenberg surpassing Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland) as the highest-grossing female screenwriter, it took me a while to wrap my mind around it. After all, it’s the kind of statistic that only a baseball fan could love. It doesn’t take into account the thousands of other people and factors that go into making a film a world-wide financial smash, giving credit solely to the writer (and only if that writer has official credit on the movie).
On the other hand, it’s the kind of fact that feels significant. That tells us a bit about the world we live in. Maybe in a way that upsets us.
At its barest, it reveals that the female movie writer responsible for banking the most money did it mostly through the Twilight series – Step Up is the only non-Twilight property she’s credited for outside of her lengthy television resume. It also means she did it mostly through means of a book adaptation. After Breaking Dawn Part 1 topped $647m, her total landed at just over $2.56b.
She’s also far and away behind her male counterparts where Steve Kloves held onto his Harry Potter writing gig long enough to create $6.8b (with The Deathly Hallows Part 2 earning another $1.3b to achieve that figure this year). However, this whole situation raises a question of whether we should really be measuring success this way – especially with so many caveats. Is there any doubt that Twilight would have made about the same amount no matter who wrote the scripts? Is it fair to single out a singular entity in the creative process and give them tacit credit for the entirety of the gross?
And on that note, does co-written work not fall into THR’s consideration? What about writing partners? Phillipa Boyens has made at least $3.4b with her work as a writer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and for King Kong. Why isn’t she top dog here?
Again, this is the kind of trivia that rivals knowing which Left Fielder holds the record for Most Amount of Throws to Home Plate in Light Rain on a Sunday During the Second Game of a Double Header. It’s frivolous.
Or, it’s just another way that Twilight dominates, and maybe it does have something to say about the kinds of movies that women writers can make large amounts of money with. Clearly, my mind is still not wrapped around it. Maybe it doesn’t deserve more thought.