“...for the first time, you know, men in general are starting to be aware of their existence. And that’s not such a horrible thing...”
By Chesley Turner
Photography by Maarten De Boer
This is Olivia.
Olivia is confident. She’s unapologetic. She doesn’t like to put up with bullshit and she’ll express her opinion even when it’s uncomfortable. Be like Olivia.
Women in Hollywood are often the bellwethers for change in social perception. Billions of people and industries take cues from them. The spotlight’s already there. Leading ladies made it acceptable to wear makeup, to wear pants, to divorce and remarry, and now, to speak out against sexual harassment and marginalization. And yet, they walk the line we all women must walk, just more publicly.
“You know, there is this stigma that when we speak up, we are being difficult, that we’re being needy, that we’re being demanding. There’s almost this collective unconscious that women have adapted that we have to apologize for asking for normal rights and decencies.”
Women have lived the double standard forever. It isn’t any different if you’re on the cover of magazines and in front of cameras, a model, a starlet, a name. In fact, it can be worse.
“When I take on any role, the number one thing I think about is I just don’t apologize. And I end up having to argue a lot, you know, from behind the scenes, in closed-door meetings with directors and producers and writers. Like, ‘Let me explain to you why having this [in the script] is a form of micro-aggression.’” Munn sticks to her guns, acknowledging that it’s sometimes difficult to educate or point out her experience without coming across too strong or making others defensive. “There’s a reason why minorities and women need to be in the Senate and in Congress. Because it shouldn’t be a bunch of the same type of people making rules for everyone else.” The same goes for script-writing and directing. If the plot doesn’t require subjugation of women, why have it in the script?
“Being a woman in any business, from my own experience—the biggest difference is before I say anything, I think of three different ways to say it before I say it. You know, ‘They’re gonna think this is bitchy, they’re gonna think…they’re going to get defensive about this.’ So you start thinking about ways to phrase it. A lot of men don’t think like that. They just say it.”
Just say it. We could use more people in this world who just speak their truths. Not to be vindictive or judgmental or polemic, but to help others understand. So few in power are willing to listen to another’s experience, and to Munn, that’s critical for the movement to survive.
“What’s happening now with the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp is that…for the first time, you know, men in general are starting to be aware of their existence. And that’s not such a horrible thing. Any time there have been big changes in the world it shakes everything up. And it’s not pleasant. And I think we’re in it right now.”
Munn calls out those men who blow their responses out of proportion, claiming they can’t hug a woman, or that these awareness movements are creating a witch hunt. “And I’m like, you’re really comparing this to a witch hunt? First of all, that’s when a bunch of cool ladies did some stuff at night and they were doing their own thing…and people wanted to persecute them and burn them alive. That’s a witch hunt. What’s happening now is: men who are abusing power are having to face justice.”
There’s double standard and the status quo works well for most men already. That’s why many are resistant to change the system. They say, I’m not that guy. “But just because you think that I shouldn’t be upset by it, or I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that I will. You have to listen to other people.”
She’s not overly optimistic. “I don’t think there’s a social awakening…especially in our industry—will big stars keep working with people that have been called out for being inappropriate, or being callous, or for looking the other way and being blind?”
Change takes time and activism takes resilience. Even amidst the movements we see online and on the red carpet, the biggest culprits are still booking big stars for their films or landing huge deals. Munn sees this as, if not endorsing the behavior, at least abetting it. “The thing is, you can’t just depend on people to [change their behavior] because they know it’s the right thing to do. In order to make change, it has to be a conscious decision.” Munn has many male actor friends who argue that male-lead movies make more money, and that’s just how it is. But, she argues, they’ve been set up to have a bigger box office draw. In the current industry atmosphere, when a movie with a female lead or a woman director fails, it reflects on all the movies led by women. “Then you have these guys who lead movies, they bomb, and they keep coming back, over and over and over…with the same hundred million dollar budget. Because that’s the system that we’re in. It’s the system that creates the disparity.”
Don’t get your hopes up, but keep up the fight, Munn says. “It’s important to keep talking about it. And talk about it in a way that’s not complaining.” There are people that consciously marginalize others, “but I think for most people it’s the collective unconscious, and they just keep going.”
And no one is safe, not even the queen. “Did you hear about Claire Foy? I’m like, for real? And by the way, Netflix, didn’t you just pay Woody Allen, like, tens of millions of dollars? Didn’t Chris Rock get, like, $50 million something? Like, for real? $40 grand an episode [for Foy] when you guys are giving out money left and right? Like, I can’t even.”
On-screen women can and should be cinematographic powerhouses, too, and they should be compensated as such. Equity is important, but to get there, we have to teach people about the magnitude of the disparity.
And it’s not just in Hollywood that we underestimate the fairer sex, as Munn’s research for her upcoming role on Six proves. Six is the History Channel TV series about the best-of-the-best, Seal Team Six. “My character is in the CIA. She’s based on a few female ex-CIA operatives. What I was able to find out is that a lot of snipers in the CIA are women. They’re expert shooters. So [my character] is not just in a desk job. She’s being a fighter, being a soldier, being out there.”
Munn grew up in a military family and has a deep love for military men and women and the families that support them. “We send our soldiers into battle, and the soldiers do it because they believe in our government, that they wouldn’t be sent in unless it was something that was super important. The reality is, it’s a lot more complicated than that. And the intricacies of it…. We think when we’re sending in our soldiers, that we’ve vetted it out. And a lot of times, it’s not vetted. But there’s somebody at the top who says, ‘Send them out there.’ These people who are in their suits in DC making decisions…[but] this isn’t like playing Call of Duty at home.”
Of course, who is there to keep an eye on the suits? The journalists. Munn, who majored in journalism, recalls her love of Aaron Sorkin and his motivation behind the The Newsroom. “You know, he wrote every single episode, and he put his whole heart into it and he got so burned out.” The HBO show wasn’t cancelled. Instead, envisioning the idealism of that behemoth news network got to be too much for its creator. “People wanted to say it was about what Sorkin thought. But it was such a love letter to journalism. He believes the way that I believe when we talk about it, which is that journalists are forced into doing the salacious, gossipy, whatever-gets-in-the-news coverage because of just how much competition there is out there. And that’s not what they really want. That’s not what journalists go to school for.”
Munn isn’t all social activism. She’s also into animal activism. As the new part-owner and creative strategist for Wag!, she’s showing her softer side: that of a pet-lover. Munn has her own two rescues. One is a pure-bred Cavalier King Charles rescued from a puppy mill. And then there’s Frankie. “He’s more street. He was found in downtown Austin covered in fleas. He’s the cutest thing ever.” So Munn jumped at the opportunity to help ease the stress of pet owners who are working hard, and help the pets that they love—dogs, cats, pigs, it doesn’t matter. “Wag! is like the Uber for dog walkers. We have a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves.”
Helmut Lang sweater
Luv AJ earrings
Jacquie Aiche rings
Morgan Lane dress
Iro leather jacket
Luv AJ rings and hoop earrings
Jacquie Aiche long diamond earrings
Doc Martens boots